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Unified Past - 2009 - "Tense"

(67:29, ‘Triple S’)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  The Return of the Profit 3:49
2.  They Know 6:58
3.  Cellular Chaos-1 2:54
4.  Ice Melt 9:46
5.  Oh My God 5:24
6.  The Earth's Energy 8:26
7.  Cellular Chaos-2 3:38
8.  Under the Influence 4:11
9.  Really Under the Influence 6:27
10. Cellular Chaos-3 4:14
11. An Outer Body Experience 7:34
12. My Name Is Stephen! 4:08


Stephen Speelman – guitars, bass; keyboards; vocals
Victor Tassone – drums; percussion
Steve Calovi – vocals 
Vinny Krivacsy – keyboards (5, 11, 12)

Prolusion. The US band UNIFIED PAST, also known as Long Island's Labyrinth, has been around since the early ‘90s. It released 3 albums under its first moniker; then its members changed their name when they were signed by the indie label Atomik Records in 1999 and released their first effort under the new name in 2000. "Tense" is their fifth album overall and their second as Unified Past. It was self-released in 2009.

Analysis. While this is an album issued by a band, the credits reveal that, at least by this time, Unified Past appears to exist first and foremost as the creative vehicle of Stephen Speelman. He handles most of the instruments himself; he has written all the songs, and, apart from the drummer, the only other regular member here is the lead vocalist, who found his way into this project at an advanced stage according to the band's website, which might explain why the vocals are the weakest aspect by far on this disc. Calovi doesn't come across as a strong singer for starters; his voice is adequate, but perhaps somewhat lacking in register for the tasks he's given on this occasion. But first and foremost his contribution sounds slightly out of place, as though the music was written with another vocalist in mind. The mix and production don't help to polish this aspect either, as the vocals are at times partially hidden in the instrumental excursions, and at other times they basically come across as somewhat accidentally placed in the overall sound. As this is a case for the backing vocals at times too, this isn't just about the vocal performance. But nevertheless, the lead vocals much too often don't quite fit the tone, music and overall sound here. As I'm something of a pedant regarding this aspect of any given venture, this weakness may not appear to be as vital for others as it is to me. And as far as the musical exploits are concerned, the musical red thread throughout this affair made me think of Rush more than anything else. The album can more or less be described as exploring two different types of music, where one is closer to progressive metal than anything else while the other explores a lighter and quirkier atmosphere from the art rock department. Chugging, staccato riffs, adding spices from mid-‘80s heavy metal to a Rush-inspired foundation are pretty much a concise, general description of the metal parts of this affair. Folk-tinged acoustic or clean guitar textures are added in to enhance the sonic tapestries created, and on some occasions space-tinged keyboard textures add an additional dimension to these proceedings. The lighter side of this venture sounds like a meeting between the aforementioned Canadian trio and the most accessible part of ‘80s King Crimson, featuring layered wandering guitar textures and arrangements on the quirky side as distinctive features. And while neither aspect of this band's ventures can be said to be truly successful, neither can it be said to be a total failure either.

Conclusion. Besides the weakness of the lead vocals, most of these creations come across as pretty standard fare, where a few efforts manage to charm their way outside of the borders of the average. Which adds up to an album that doesn't offer anything new or stunning in any way, but which should be a nice addition to the music collection of those who find the musical mix offered by this act to be intriguing in general.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 5, 2010
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Unified Past


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