Uniform began as the project between two very talented musicians of the New York scene. Vocalist Michael Berdan (Drunkdriver, Whip, and the Body) and guitarist Ben Greenberg (the Men, Zs, Bloody Panda) found a mutual interest for the darkest, most extreme edge of the trajectory where industrial and noise intersect. With a mechanical progression providing an inhumane touch and the ample dose of distortion creating a thick wall of sound, the band has released a series of records and remains very active. Last year they released their debut album for Sacred Bones, Wake in Fright, following the release of their debut record Perfect World in 2015. Now, they return after a very successful, and surprisingly melodic, collaboration with sludge/doom/noise alchemists the Body, and attempt a slight shake-up of their approach.
Uniform’s music always pushes the boundaries of what is sonically tolerable. The repetitive beatings of the electronic percussion, the cold industrial touch providing the mechanized rhythmic renditions would meet with an overwhelming amount of distortion and noise. Everything in the world of Uniform appears through a bizarre sonic lens, which makes everything appear dystopian and primal. This is still the case with the band’s new record, The Long Walk, which utilizes equal parts noise and industrial to achieve its result. The distortion is not just applied on the guitars, but rather each element, resulting in an anamorphic representation of the music. It provides the band with its trademark, asphyxiating characteristic, making a track like “Inhuman Condition” feel as if a bulldozer is passing through your living room. The slow riffs coming from the guitar further aid in building this impressive sound, for instance in “Anointing of the Sick”, with the vocals also appearing completely mutilated.
Despite the presence of noise and distortion, the foundation for Uniform remains within a rock domain. Most of the tracks follow a straight, headbanging progression that the band can very easily call upon. “Found” features some honest, dirty metallic chugging, which combined with the ample amount of distortion results in a furious progression, as is the case with the more fierce and focused assault Uniform unleash in “Transubstantiation”. There are even times when the main motifs point towards some heavy rock influence, with a certain twang sprouting from Greenberg’s guitar, as with the main theme of “Headless Eyes”. Similarly, the lead work follows this standard rock mode, with the band laying down some very distinct and hooky parts, in “Inhuman Condition”, pilling unto the asphyxiating quality of their music.
While the band displayed this impressive form, for most of the previous album I felt that there was not enough further experimentation. Uniform had a great notion of how to create extreme music, and produce an intense listening experience, but it felt as if the band was not diving far enough. The one aspect that partly changes that with The Long Walk is the inclusion of drummer Greg Fox (Ex Eye, Liturgy, Guardian Alien, Zs). With the band using both triggered samples and human drumming, in this case, they expand their sonic palette and provide a further layer of complexity to their music.
The industrial backbone still retains its fierce manifestation, through the use of distorted effects, but Fox’s drumming adds a more urgent and unpredictable drive to the resulting sound. The groove is more distinct this time around, with the band breaking the illusion of industrial repetitions at times, as is the case with “Alone in the Dark” featuring some excellent breaks. The final track of the album also sees Fox breaking into a furious blast beat that would appear messy if it was all just a result of synthetic percussion, but instead brings the track to a higher gear.
Despite this move by Uniform, it still feels like the band is holding back when it comes to its capabilities. Regarding the extremity of their sound, they are exactly where they should be, but there are again times when a touch of further experimentation would reveal something different and add variety. Still, there are moments when Uniform investigate more atmospheric approaches, as is the case with both the opening and closing track of the record, bringing in a different type of intense flavor to this work. These renditions provide an origin point for the overall dystopian characteristic of the band, either highlight an ever-present danger in “Found” or giving the track an ominous start, as in “Headless Eyes”. Also, an interesting twist in “Found” is the dive into a noise rock/free rock territory near the end of the track, with the band losing all notions of progression and order and plunging into complete chaos.
For this record, the band found inspiration in one of Stephen King’s books The Walk. The book features an annual race, entitled “The Long Walk”, where 100 boys are made to walk south of the Maine/Canada border at a constant rate until only one is left standing. The winner of that race gets everything he wants for the rest of his life while the remaining 99 are doomed. It is a story set in a dystopian, post-humanist society and one that vocalist Michael Berdan appreciates due to its cynicism. In the same respect Uniform shed light to the ugly side of the human psyche, and while they do so in a very explicit and expressive way, it feels like there is still much more they can dig up to the surface.