Unseen Force - In Search of the Truth (Cover Artwork)

Unseen Force

In Search of the Truth (2008)

Grave Mistake / Vicious Circle

As we move further away from the 1980s and the birth of hardcore punk, it seems that references to that genre and time period are becoming increasingly narrow. Sure, at some point in time most punk fans get a history lesson that includes bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and a handful of others, but what happened to the rest of the groups that helped shape American hardcore? Well, somebody must have been asking that same question when they decided to re-issue Unseen Force's 1986 album In Search of the Truth.

The band, who called Richmond home during their short run, played shows with plenty of the big guns (Subhumans, Melvins, Agnostic Front, D.R.I., T.S.O.L.) and have had members go on to work with Gwar, Debbie Harry, and even…Moby, so it is a bit surprising that they don't carry a heftier legacy. Maybe that fact has more to do with the music which, while by no means bad, doesn't seem to really distinguish the group much from their fellow hardcore acts. Unseen Force play galloping `80s hardcore interjected with Greg Ginn-like leads, but also seem to reference hard rock and early metal with some slower moments, while singer Bob Venderami comes off like a sloppier Milo Auckerman. The problem is the elements that made their contemporaries unique -- whether it was the fury of Black Flag, the smart melodies of Minor Threat, or the quirky persona of the Dead Kennedys -- are all but absent here, leaving a mediocre product.

Maybe these detractors wouldn't be so obvious if the release had merely been limited to the 11 tracks that made up the In Search of the Truth LP. Instead you are hit over the head with a 12-song radio show set (which does feature three unreleased songs) and 12 from a 1984 demo by 2000 Maniacs, a band that featured two members of Unseen Force. By the end of the CD the 33 tracks here sort of start to blur, which is not helped by the fact that 2000 Maniacs -- despite having a different vocalist -- sound so similar to Unseen Force.

Yes, the `80s hardcore scene gave birth to many bands worse than Unseen Force, but it also produced a number of bands that could probably use the reissue + bonus track treatment more than this Richmond group. This isn't bad hardcore, just hardcore that never seemed to find its own voice.