Unifying Themes Redux
posted on 10/2006 By:
Now, I’m not entirely sure what the deal with this here release is. It’s a compilation of various early Botch material, including all of the songs from the original Unifying Themes of Sex, Death and Religion plus a number of miscellaneous tracks from various EPs and 7”s. But is this a re-release of the original Unifying Themes Redux re-release? Botch’s Myspace refers to it as Unifying Themes Redux Redux, and there’s a separate Unifying Themes Redux that was put out by Excursion Records rather than the more familiar Hydra Head Industries. If such is the case, then these songs have now been released three times; I’d think it was a cash grab if I was less familiar with both the band and the label involved.
And furthermore, Botch is likely doing a service to their fans with this re-release. These defunct Seattle iconoclasts are ever defined by their later work, and everything released before their breakout album American Nervoso is virtually impossible to find in stores. Unifying Themes Redux will suggest to most listeners that there’s a reason for this—though these songs reflect some of the irrepressible creativity that defined Botch’s career, they’re usually exemplars of great potential rather than great execution. Songs like “Closure” and “In Spite Of This,” for example, see Botch employing one-chord chugga that sounds suspiciously like a regular ol’ metalcore breakdown—not exactly their normal modus operandi. There are aesthetic discrepancies too: vocalist Dave Verellen’s howl is far thinner and more underpowered here than on any subsequent release, and the excellent Tim Latona/Brian Cook rhythm section is not nearly as progressive or intricate as they would become.
Nonetheless, that spark of genius is still there, and Unifying Themes Redux is still quite a listen. Though I first heard them both years ago, Botch’s two best-known covers—“O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s masterpiece Carmina Burana and The B-52’s goofy “Rock Lobster”—remain wildly entertaining, though Botch’s finest cover (Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard”) is notably absent. And though the rhythms are simple next to their successors, Dave Knudson’s guitar work is stamped all over with the bizarro harmonic sensibility that would become the cornerstone of Botch’s sound. The loping, pseudo-melodic noise rock of tracks like “Inch by Inch” and “Third Part in a Tragedy” are most indicative of what Botch would become: some of the most accomplished and innovative songwriters in either metal or hardcore. Unifying Themes Redux also contains a couple of interesting oddities; there’s an early version of the classic “Frequency Ass Bandit” from We Are the Romans entitled “Frequenting Mass Transit,” and what would appear to be an instrumental B-side from An Anthology of Dead Ends called “Sudam.”
Ultimately, though, this release will serve the purpose as most such retrospective collections do. Those unfamiliar with Botch are advised to approach the band through their better, later albums first and work backwards, but the band’s devotees will find plenty of genealogical interest here—and some damn good songs too. Interestingly, this is the first of four planned Botch-related Hydra Head releases; might a reunion tour be in the works? Knowing these don’t-look-back experimentalists, probably not, but one can hope.
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We Are The Romans (Deluxe Edition)
American Nervoso (Reissue)
An Anthology of Dead Ends