Liverpool, UK based cybergrind duo Victim Unit offer up an exciting smorgasbord of cybergrind, noise, and avant-garde jazz on their most recent release, IF NOT, Y NOT. The listening journey begins as it ends: terrified and alone, fully embracing their genderqueer individuality, and with a revolutionary stylism that defines Victim Unit’s sound. The latter half of this album is where things get messy in all of the best ways, offering up an extra platter of about half an hour’s worth of the avant-garde jazz and noise. The colorful first half of this record is cybergrind through and through, but with a resistance to the tropes and trappings of this particular microcosm of cybergrind such as conventional breakbeats and more standardised vocals.

The electronic grooves and intense blast beats are run through multiple layers of compression, whereas the heavily distorted baritone guitar work from Danny Page creates an audial assault - one that I personally can only compare to being repeatedly hit by Marsha P. Johnson in the face with a brick. Frontman Lotta Ridgeley’s vocals range from the inflected sass we can hear on songs such as “Bloodcry of the Goldfinch” to pained hardcore screams such as those at the beginning of “Thankyou” which makes the skin crawl. It is through these contrasting vocal styles that the band exorcise their deep traumas from which we receive little reprieve.

The first track, “...[INHALE]...” opens with a glitchy, tension building drum loop that then dissolves and is reborn as the opening riff of the second track, “Spit & Spite.”

Page’s technical and unorthodox guitar playing immediately hits your ears with an amount of emotiveness that I envy. “Kiddo” then flies out - a song in which Ridgeley’s vocal performance pushes the more sassy vocal stylings wherein they take advantage of their higher range.

There’s a lot to be said about the musical content of Victim Unit. Their combination of jarring odd time signatures, chaotic song structures, dissonant and complex harmony as well as the hardcore punk inspired vocals all play well into the album’s overall crushing, claustrophobic mix. Elements are purposefully overcompressed on the album and the addition of UK noise rap artist Nailbreaker on one of the standout tracks (“Gutter-God”) as well as the other off-kilter elements make this one hard for me to personally criticize because it’s everything I look for in cybergrind, though I do think there are some moments on the album where I feel on edge in anticipation due to the ambient tension-building scattered throughout, although I believe it’s one hundred percent purposeful, and for that, I can’t really criticize it.

The avant-jazz section we hear after listening to the grinding first half of the album is purely improvisational. It errs on the slow-side, with a dark droning style and a freeform structure; layered with noise and ambience, it echoes the feeling of a comedown after an anxiety attack. The addition of the latter half, whilst unnecessary to enjoy the album as a musical entity, is necessary for the narrative it builds and was definitely worth a mention in regards to the conceptual effect this album has.

I honestly believe that Victim Unit deserve to be called one of the torchbearers of the cybergrind genre (especially within the UK community) and this album thoroughly proves to me that Page & Ridgeley are an unmatched, unfettered creative duo. They are artists who process the anxiety and horror of being anything other than heteronormative in a society that, while more accepting than others, is still unfortunately so far behind with basic human rights for queer and nonconforming people. The journey that IF NOT, Y NOT takes you on is an intense one channelling the duo’s angst in ways that few artists have done before. Having experienced Victim Unit’s performances in person a fair few times I can attest that they are as emotive and cathartic in a live setting as they are in the confines of these studio recordings. 

“IF NOT, Y NOT” is out now on Bandcamp, with physicals released by Affair Records

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