originally written by Erik Highter
Most people thought that Unsane‘s reunion in 2003 was the end of The Cutthroats 9, but Chris Spencer, Will Carroll and Tony Baumesiter are back with the bluesy and blustering Dissent. It’s a welcome return. While Unsane channel a palpable sense of dread and terror with their music, The Cutthroats 9 is a looser, more roadhouse take on noise rock.
Not that there aren’t similarities; Spencer’s voice is unmistakable, a bull roar that seems to only needs amplification because of the cacophonous sound of his signature grinding guitar style. Despite that, Dissent doesn’t feel like Unsane-lite, or even a spin-off at all. Spencer is exploring sounds and compositions that would be an awkward fit for his better known band, and in the process they’ve made a short blast of an album that truly shows The Cutthroats 9 to be their own kind of monster.
However, the opening track, “Speak” is not the best example of those differences. Though Will Carroll’s shuffling beat might raise an eyebrow on an Unsane album, the bass grind from Tony Baumeister and Spencer’s shrieking lead are relatively old hat. Thankfully, “Trouble” barrels in with Spencer playing a slide line that hits like an industrial dough mixer to the gut. Churning in all the rightfully wrong ways, Baumeister and Carroll amplify the distress, while Spencer howls like a drill sergeant as he rolls your intestines around the tuning pegs of his guitar.
The dis-ease keeps roiling. The first half of Dissent manages to repeatedly mulch your innards over and over. Familiarity is no defense; the feeling of having a rototiller in your liver for song after song returns with every spin. “Eraser” and “Hit The Ground” do an excellent job of making you nothing more than scrambled viscera, while “Dissension” teases you by taking out the tiller and putting everything back – if in the wrong order – and then kicking you repeatedly in the head.
Dissent is more than noisy burners. While front-loaded with them, the band gradually turns to a more barrelhouse blues sound to bring it home. “We Could” is Clutch gone feral; the groove is strong, the harmonica smoking (yes, harmonica, and it works), the breakdown downright mean. These three men kick up quite the ruckus. “Induction” closes things with a ballad of sorts; slow, and comparatively controlled and tuneful, it still has Spencer’s trademark bellowing delivery to keep it from becoming “nice”.
In an age where 70+ minute albums still are sadly common, Dissent‘s scant 26 minutes is both welcome and somewhat sad. I’m not saying it should be some hour-plus opus, but after 13 years I want even more from The Cutthroat 9 than what I got. Which might be the highest praise I’ve given an album this year.