Union 13

Symptoms of Humanity

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For a literally young band, Union 13 had quite a bit of time under their belt -- and several albums for that matter -- before their iconic lead singer, Edward Escoto, and the remainder of the band parted ways after the release of Youth, Betrayal and the Awakening. That change also heralded a label switch to Disaster, and it was only three years later that the now-trio re-emerged with Symptoms of Humanity, a half-hour-plus of loud, righteous ire. To its credit, the group continued on without specifically recruiting anyone to replace Escoto; instead, guitarist and main songwriter Jose Mercado stepped up on lead. He's unsurprisingly got the sheer frenetic explosiveness part down, though Escoto's shoes are going to remain hard to fill for a while yet. That said, the group's focus -- multilingual rampages against the ills of the world, readily reflecting the band's never-hidden love of Bad Religion -- remains the same, and the core musical unit of Mercado and the Louie Villareal/Rudy Ramos rhythm section doggedly pursues its muse. As is often the case with hardcore, it's the variety rather than the worship of a core style that makes a band stand out, and Union 13 does a pretty good job in maintaining that -- "Going Through This" whips together anthemic metal, a hint of funk, and more besides, while touches like the acoustic start of "The Future and the Past" (as well as the brief introductory instrumental, "The All Seeing Eye") never hurt. The breathlessness and involvement of the lyrics means that anyone wanting to get those messages had best read along with the lyric sheet, but the Spanish-language songs such as "Enfrentando Nuestros Miedos" and "Todos Nuestros Seunos" sound downright romantic in a wounded way (the chorus of the first in particular).

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