UnityTX - Ferality (Cover Artwork)


Ferality (2023)

Pure Noise Records

I first heard about UnityTX around the release of Madboy in 2018. That release was 8 songs and 20 minutes long, so whether or not Spotify deems it an album (it does), the band perceive this, Ferality, as their debut proper. At 11 songs and over half an hour, it has more of the traditional hallmarks of an LP, so I can see by they’d want to separate the two. This release also comes some 9 years after the band’s inception though, which seems a very long time, even considering the blurred CV19 years in the midst of that period. I should point out that UnityTX are in a very particular niche insofar as they are billed as one of a few hardcore/hip-hop genre-bending bands who have emerged in the last decade. Although there is a well-documented dotted line between the two genres (look at the ongoing success of festivals which book a combination of acts in the two camps) an actual amalgam is relatively rare. One that succeeds in combining the sounds is even rarer.

I think it would be egregiously inaccurate to suggest that UnityTX have made a red-blooded effort to combine the genres fluidly on Ferality. That doesn’t necessarily mean that what we have here isn’t good. Because at points, it is. Very. However, even more so than Madboy, this record skips between the musical touchstones it draws from. Unquestionably though, the guitar-based side of things is now more metalcore or nu-metal than hardcore. Again, this sounds like I’m taking a shot, but I’m not necessarily. It’s just that when you have a band who are seemingly most comfortable with rolling beats, electronic samples and modern production flourishes, their style inevitably lends itself more to those structures and sonic textures. I’m reminded to some extent of Linkin Park crossed with Gideon when I listen to this album more than anything more (dare I say it) groundbreaking. Also, when the big riffs or breakdowns do come, they’re less impactful than other bands who operate in a vaguely similar bracket, such as Loathe or Static Dress, for example. I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that these songs will hit like a meteor when played live and in the right environment, but there is ultimately less experimentation here than I would have liked to have seen. Especially after such a long time in the works.

I’m not going to try and pretend that vocalist Jay Webster isn’t an obvious talent, because he can clearly hold his own in both styles he utilises, though I would say his flow is often predictable and some of his lyrical content is not going to be cool with all hardcore audiences. That said, the confrontational style of the music is undeniably true to the Dallas-based troupe’s background and surroundings. It’s unfortunate that bar a few ‘ad-hoc’ vocal tropes aside, the screamed and rapped vocals don’t overlap or blur more frequently. Or at all, really.

When you think about some of the more experimental hardcore/hip-hop/electronic bands of recent years like Soul Glo, Deijuvhs, MSPAINT, or even Show Me The Body, Code Orange, etc. then you can see that some people are a lot further along the path of blending these genres. However, considering UnityTX got a producer for this record who has worked with A Day To Remember and Wage War, then it rather suggests they’re not looking to remain outsiders in the scene; whichever scene it is they see themselves in.

Rightly or wrongly, I’m reminded of the phrase ‘A camel is a horse designed by committee’ when I listen to this album. What was once a clear and focused project, given what may have been simply too long to come to fruition, has become a diluted and oddly patchwork version of what could have been. I’d love to see UnityTX live now, with the benefit of a full debut LP to draw from, but it does feel a little like they still need to decide who they really are, or indeed want to be. That wouldn’t usually be a problem on a debut record, but maybe more damning 9 years into a band’s life. It’s a curious factor that both are true in the case of UnityTX.