Crucial Records #9 : Unity – Blood Days

By Tieuma

As far as I remember, the topic of unity always been a huge matter in the hardcore community. How many songs been written on that matter ? And even though, no one seems to have the same vision about it. Personnaly, I won’t extend myself on that item, but I got to say, I quiet agree with the way the band we’ll talk about today think this through.

In fact, with a name like that, they had to think about it at least a little bit.  Being known as the first band being put out by Wishingwell records and a spearheader of the Orange County Hardcore sound, it’s also, at least for me, one of the bands that helped to shape the Youth Crew sound, alongside UNIFORM CHOICE.

You might disagree, but I’m not sure YOUTH OF TODAY, or even the whole 88′ NYHC wave for that matter, would have sounded the same without the You Are One EP. Indeed, they were a shortliving band, and I’m not sure how many show they played, but they weren’t the most active of that area. Still, for me, it’s hard not to recognize how influential they were.

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Most of the members went on to form or were playing in great bands of the area, including UNIFORM CHOICE, NO FOR AN ANSWER, IGNITE, SPEAK 714 and many more, which can already give you an insight on the quality of UNITY. Nonetheless, they were not only a great act for their futur projects. If you like O.C Hardcore, they definitly helped this scene soundwise, being one of its precussor. In general, they just wrote great songs, and even if I’m that type of person who consider everyone can play punk and that’s the purpose of it, they were talented musicians creating a sound that is still out of the standards.

As the previous issue of the Crucial Records, this LP only have 6 originals songs, all the rest of them being rerecordings of the You Are One, but it’s still worth it for me. Not because it’s a 12″, but because the old songs sound way better on this recording. Some will say there’s not many changes between the two, but I appreciate it a lot much, yet it’s less raw. Though, it didn’t loose the aggression.

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UNITY records are quite hard to find honestly, or at least on their first and original pressing. But thanks to many labels (and Lost And Found Records unfortunatly) for repressing it, as I’m not the one searching desperatly for OG records, I’m glad some people took the time to give those a kind of new life. It’s also interesting how much all their records been repressed. I mean, many other great bands would deserve to have their albums reissued, but UNITY seems to gather more interest. (I’m not talking about bootleg here, even though I think they are important too, but due to the kind of “illegal” side of it, it’s still hard to find.) I won’t complain though. The version I own is the latest to have been put out, by Kidnap Records from Germany, including a beautiful poster and a different colorway, pressed on a beautiful turquoise vinyl. The original version was put out on Powerhouse Records in 1989. It’s a great item, I love the artwork and the general design, super clean and not so much close to a cliché of the genre. Though, the back cover is a bit sketchy.

As I wrote above, one of the first thing that makes this records great is the song writing. It’s one of the few bands that is able to create aggressive tunes, in the way of the early 80’s bands, furious and raging, but never rejected the melodies. Because, as much as I like FREEWILL, they traded much of the rawness for melodies, which doesn’t make it a bad sound in the end, but I’m more into UNITY type of melodic touch on a Punk records. Sound and Sight, which opens the LP, is a good example. It goes fast and loud, but still tries to find a kind of sensitivity. Ok, maybe it’s not the word you would use, but for me it sounds like this.

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You got to keep in mind those guys grew up during the rise of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Not to mean they did as UNIFORM CHOICE or SSD and put straight riffs in their songs. But they definitly were influenced by those type of sounds (And just take a look to the back cover, they look like carbon copy of Iron Maiden. Well maybe I’m off the hook, but you got the point). And the best example is certainly when you listen to the ballads of those type of bands. It’s beautiful songs, full of melodies, that most people not much into this type of music remember more than the others tracks of those bands records, which can totally be used to write melodic riffs. And I think it’s where they took their riffs. At least in my opinion, so don’t blame me for saying something like that. In fact I can’t use any reference since I’m this kind of person who only have basis in this type of music, but as far as I know it’s how it sounds like in my ears.

But, before you kill me for saying something like this, I also acknowledge there’s more than that. I think MINOR THREAT helped out a lot in the writing process. And I’m talking late MINOR THREAT here. I know, it can sound really generic since most of Hardcore Punk bands could be inspired by the said band. But, think about it. Salad Days is kind of a proto-FRUGAZI, more “experimental” of some sort. And with a lot more of melodies and guitars tricks ! Indeed, UNITY also took the somewhat primitive punk sound out of it, no doubt, but the way they tried to bring something different is the same to me. It’s definitly a search for a deeper song writing than just the “fast-slow-fast” formula, straight in your face. I’m quite sure they were huge VERBAL ASSAULT fans too, since we could make a lot of comparisons between both (Listen to Sea Of Emptiness to be accurate.) Well, of course, out of the melodies, they are a typical American Hardcore band with all the fury behind that term, sure worshipping acts as BAD BRAINS.

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Well, we could tergiversate a lot more on how good the song writing is, because I’m sure there’s a lot of references I’m missing – Like early UK punk rock for instance or surf/garage music, but again, I can hardly give examples so I won’t go further- but what’s important though, is how it inspired a lot of bands throughout  time. As I said, the Youth Crew movement is sure a prime example. I’m thinking about SUPERTOUCH on The Earth Is Flat or later on TURNING POINT, OUTSPOKEN. Indeed, let’s not forget the early React! Records roster. Finally, it seems obvious but I think all the OC hardcore scene can relate to this sound, and I’d love to know what Sarah Kirsch (R.I.P) thought of this records, but she might have taken influences out of it for some of it’s projects, I’m thinking about TORCHES TO ROME mostly.

UNITY were also a good definition of what unity would mean for me. If on their previous EP they clearly stated on the back cover they were rejecting any form of oppression, they just went further on with the LP. Of course, because almost all the songs of You Are One were rerecorded here, most of the job was already done. But the other tunes were not filler, for damn sure. It might still be punk lyrics, Pat Dubar style is quite unique. Yet it’s poetic and kind of sensitive, it still screams out for positive changes, or just for changes for that matter. I love the fact it’s a Straight Edge band but they doesn’t have this violent stance and they might put it upfront but in a subtle way. Indeed, Straight On View is a best exemple, even though it’s an “old song”. My favorite one might be Love, mostly for the lyrics. It’s a really beautiful song, that might sound cheesy, but seriously, how powerful is that part ? :

Done be afraid-TO CARE.
Dont be afraid-TO DARE.
Dont be afraid-TO CARE.
Dont be afraid to dare!
Dont be afraid to care and show someone you love.

Again it was originaly on the EP. But for the songs only on the LP, Blood Days stand out of the rest and I think Sound And Sight is the perfect song to open a records. All these lyrics are really motivating and with his Hard Rock voice, Dubar had his way to make a punk song sound over the standards. I think it’s another thing that is unique with UNITY, the voice and how he sung. Honestly, the first times it surprised me a lot, because I wasn’t quite familiar with this kind of sounds, but when I came across the late JERRY’S KID, it became something natural. Personally, I’m more into the voice on the LP, because it sound more mature and you can feel how much they worked for it to be just on point.

I think this records didn’t received the love it deserved. I don’t know if it’s because the first EP became a collector treasure or because they never toured nor played show after they released Blood Days, but I think it’s one of the best records to come out of Orange County. Most people missed out this records, but as for myself, I can hear influences of those songs on many records I love. And even though, it’s a records that didn’t grew old badly. I can listen to it again and again, it’s still as good and it doesn’t sound “weird”. I can compare it to the late SSD records for examples, who tried to play Hard Rock but didn’t come out that well (I still like them though, it’s just a little bit embarrassing), where UNITY succeed without any problem to cross so many influences to deliver a great batch of songs.

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It might not be objectively and for everyone an influential records, but for me it still rings nowadays. I won’t list all the bands that could credit them, but either it’s for the melodies or the rawness, you can find anything that can please you, and you can use as inspiration. I can’t find a song that flaws honestly and well, I don’t know many records that can motivate me that much. It embodies exactly what I expect from O.C hardcore to be, and I hope they’ll get more recognition with this new repress. If one day I have to form a Straight Edge bands, Blood Days would be the first records that I’d took inspiration from, because it showed me how to write punk songs that goes over the rest but still are definitively punk. If you don’t own a copy of this records already, try to get one as soon as you can because it’s totally worth it, and it might not be as expensive as it was back inthe days. It’s a collector piece but an important records musically.

 THE COLD WIND WON’T BLOW

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Crucial Records #9 : Unity – Blood Days

  1. Hey, Tieuma!
    Again, you wrote a very cool piece on a band and record that I love so much. I agree with most of the stuff you wrote about Unity except that I like more EP than LP tracx, but still, the LP is one of the best hc/punk records from the 80´s! I have Blood Days on CD that Lost & Found put out, in the 90´s that was the only way in Europe that you could get records like that. Anyway, great writing, keep it up!

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