Artist: Unit X
Title: Ontario Songs
Release: EP / Digital
Label: Passion Means Struggle, SP Discos, Specimen 32
Unit X must be one of the most canonical names for a straight edge band, and I love it. Hailing out of London, not the UK, but Ontario, Canada, the band consists of only two members, both proudly embracing the vegan straight edge way of life.
While the conventional notion often aligns vegan straight edge bands with the metallic hardcore sounds of the ‘90s, Unit X veers towards the grittier side of the youth crew sound, reminiscent of bands like Wide Awake, Unit Pride, and Side By Side.
Their latest EP, Ontario Songs, is composed of five tracks, each averaging around a minute and a half. In essence, this release is a whirlwind of fast breakdowns, rugged and harsh vocals, and high-octane youth crew riffs. Singer T. Drew’s rough vocal style also reminds me of the raw essence of Clevo legends Confront, as on their iconic mid-’90s album One Life Drug Free. But what sets Unit X apart is their lyrical approach. Surprisingly, their lyrics deviate from both the typical positive youth crew anthems and the militant animal rights and political themes of contemporary vegan edge bands.
Echoing the desolate, snow-covered landscape depicted on the album cover, Ontario Songs delves into poetic and poignant themes of depression, suffering, and loss. The EP’s closing track, “Steven,” is presumably a heartfelt tribute to a dear friend of the band’s who has passed away. While the production quality may fall short of perfection, it’s not a significant concern, especially if you have a penchant for bands that capture the unrefined essence of late ’80s and early ’90s hardcore. Given their status as a two-piece project, such minimalism and raw production are to be expected.
TL;DR: Unit X exudes the classic youth crew sound, but delivers a starkly contrasting message. If you’re tired of the genre’s tunefulness and sometimes toxic positivity, but still appreciate the music, Ontario Songs emerges as a solid release with all its ups and downs. Originally released on cassette in 2022, but now available on vinyl from Passion Means Struggle, SP Discos and Specimen 32.