Japanese thrash metal! United has been around as early as 1981, when they started out as a Judas Priest cover band taking their name from the classic Priest song. Bassist Akihiro Yokoyama is the only original member from those early days still in the band. 1995's N.O.I.Q. album is the first to get a released in the U.S. (by Metal Blade).
United - Bloody But Unbowed (Howling Bull) 1990
1. "Sniper" (4:44)
Ahhhh, Bay Area Thrash Metal! But wait! United are from Japan. Absolutely! From the first track to the last, United's debut album is chock full of meaty, pummelling thrash metal. As would be expected from any thrash band, "Bloodied But Unbowed" has plenty of speedy guitar solos, loads of double bass, heavy guitar riffs, and even some mid-tempo grooves. One huge difference between United and many similar thrash bands is their vocalist. Yoshiaki Furui has a good thrash voice that works well for the band, but he does have a thick Japanese accent. For some this may be a distraction, but I think it adds to the appeal. Another characteristic of thrash is the socially conscience lyrics. Well, that may be another downfall for United as their grip of English isn't quite up to par with the big boys of thrash. "Suck Your Bone" is a a good example, as the title itself sounds incredibly gay, however, I don't think that is what the band had in mind. Actually, reading over the lyrics to this song, I have no idea what the band was trying to say. Overall, however, the lyrics are pretty typical of early 90's thrash with themes of war, rebellion, violence, corrupt government powers, etc. Being the huge fan of speed and thrash metal that I am, I found this album very enjoyable. I can't imagine any thrash fan couldn't find something to like. Songs like "Sniper", "The Plague", "Power Rage" and "Hard To Breathe" are all up to par with anything that was coming out during the time.
United - Human Zoo (Howling Bull) 1992
1. "Human Zoo"
Despite being from Japan, United have a very American sound. Disc number two for United has them continuing to shovel forth their classic, Bay Area-inspired thrash metal. "Human Zoo" may very well be the band's best pure thrash release. From beginning to end this album is pure testosterone injected energy, with the exception of the oddball, melodic tracks "False Majesty" and "Over the Ocean", which is an acoustic ballad. As well, "Brothers in Arms" is a bit slower than the typical thrash fare, this song being more of a doomy, heavy metal number. Otherwise songs like "Violent Jack" and the insane "Don't Let Peace Break Out" are top notch thrashers packed full of chunky riffs, furious guitar solos and fast tempos. 60673For the most part Yoshiaki Furui vocals are gritty, angry and have that thick Japanese accent, which I personally feel gives the band some character. Actually, the vocals are one of the only indications that this band is from Japan and is one of the strongest things that seperates United from all the other thrash bands that were out in the early 1990's.
1. "S.R.S." (2:57)
2. "Do You Wanna Die?" (3:44)
3. "Holy Dive Screamer" (3:56)
4. "Combat!" (3:22)
5. "Ultra Q" [instrumental] (2:19)
6. "Yesterday's Hero" (5:30)
In 1992 United released two CDs, "Human Zoo" and "Beast Dominates '92". This six song EP is actually a re-recording of an early four song EP the band recorded back in 1986. The four tracks are not only re-recorded, but apparently the lyrics were changed as well. I've never heard the original, so I cannot say whether or not the re-recorded tracks are better or worse. All four tracks are crunchy, traditional thrash metal heavily inspired by the Bay Area bands of the 80's. "S.R.S." is a heavy, mid-paced romp with a mosh groove and a chant along chorus. This is easily one of the better songs in United's catalog. "Do You Wanna Die?" picks up the tempo a bit and adds in a slight punk vibe. The awkwardly titled "Holy Dive Screamer" is a fast paced, straight forward thrash number with a big Exodus influence. This song bleed right into "Combat!" making it almost seem as thought the two songs are one. Like "Holy Dive Screamer", "Combat" is a fast paced thrasher and also has that classic Bay Area sound.
The band also recorded two cover songs for this EP. "Yesterday's Hero" is a Bay City Rollers cover. Most will know this band from their 70's pop hit "Saturday Night". "Yesterday's Hero" was a minor hit by the band, and a very odd and obscure choice of covers. However, I must confess, I really like United's cover of this 70's pop song. They manage to give the song a punk meets thrash metal feel. I especially like the noisy, crazy guitar solo in the bridge of the song. The other cover, "Ultra Q" is one that I am completely unfamiliar with. I'm not even sure who the original artist is. Regardless, this song is a short instrumental and acts as a bridge between the thrashy original "Combat" and the Bay City Rollers song.
Overall, I found "Beast Dominates" to be one of United's most enjoyable discs. Perhaps it's the short format, or the quirky cover song, but "Beast Dominates" left me wanting for more. After one spin, I wanted to hear more. Several times I have listened all the way through, only to repeat a listen right after.
United - NO I.Q. (Metal Blade) 1995
I love Japanese metal. I just get such a kick out of the thick Japanese accent. United's first (and only?) American release is heavily influenced by American thrash bands like Nuclear Assault, Anthrax, and especially S.O.D. Shoot a few times I had that de-ja-vu feeling that I had heard this song before. I know I had not heard this disc, but there are some striking similarities to S.O.D. tunes. "Kill Yourself for Business" for instance has a gang chorus echoing "Kill Yourself," which is not unlike S.O.D.'s "Kill Yourself." Regardless, this album is a lot of fun. I wonder if these guys would have taken off had their album come out ten years earlier? I believe this album was originally released in 1995 but the year on the copyright is 1996. There is a untitled hidden track after about a minute and a half of silence on track 8.
United - Distorted Vision (Howling Bull) 1999
"Distored" was the first United CD I had ever heard. My first thoughts were, "Wow! These guys are stinking heavy!" I had read that United were a traditional thrash band, and perhaps they were, but on this CD they have forged some more modern influences into their molten metal (ie. Pantera, Machine Head). I'm a sucker for a good thrash band, and despite the fact that this CD strays into more groove oriented territories, United are good at what they do. After devouring the CD for several weeks it became my obsession to hunt down and seek out some of the band's earlier material.