Uniform – Shame

Posted: 9 September 2020 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sacred Bones – 11th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Regular readers will likely have spotted Uniform featured on numerous occasions here at Aural Aggro, and in may ways, they encapsulate everything that inspired me to start this in the first place – namely that reviewing music that moves and affects me isn’t quite enough, because only half of it’s about the music, and the remainder is about that personal reaction, and that’s more of an essay than a review. To some this may seem indulgent, and maybe it is, but the intention is that in explaining my own personal response, there may be something relatable there for other readers – and also, potentially, something for the artist, namely an insight into how their music resonates with fans, what it means to them.

I’m not dismissing the merit of reviews that endeavour to quantify the quality of a release based on various merits and so on, but when confronted with music that exists to convey the most brutal emotions in a way that almost physically hurts, you just have to go deeper, and pick it apart properly, much as in the way you’re compelled to pick at an itchy, crusting scab until it’s weeping and raw and bleeding once more in some wrongheaded attempt to understand the nature of the wound.

The particular thing about Uniform is the way in which they balance unbridled rawness, a rage so explosive and nihilistic that words cannot even begin to convey even the outline of the sentiment, one so deeply enmeshed with a choking fury that renders words worthless, and a rare literacy.

“Thematically, the album is like a classic hard-boiled paperback novel without a case,” says front man Michael Berdan. “It focuses on the static state of an antihero as he mulls over his life in the interim between major events, just existing in the world. At the time we were making the record, I was reading books by Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Dashiell Hammet and strangely found myself identifying with the internal dialogues of characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.”

These are all authors I have an immense admiration for, on account of the pace of their narrative, their economy, their capacity to deliver plot at pace, and their writing methods. Writing is one discipline. Writing to deadlines and producing quality and quantity quickly entirely another, and one I genuinely aspire to.

Uniform have demonstrated an impressive work ethic since their inception, and have been cranking out an album a year either on their own or in collaboration with The Body on an annual basis for the last few years. And never once has the quality or intensity dipped one iota, and Shame continues this unblemished record.

They have evolved over time, replaving the drum machine with a human drummer, but this hasn’t rendered them any more ‘ordinary’ and even without the harsh, pounding electronic battery of percussion, they’re still cranium-crushingly intense and head-shreddingly harsh.

Admittedly, I’ve had The Long Walk on heavy rotation for some two years now, with ‘The Walk’ not only defining that raw, aggro, nihilism that IS Uniform, but also being something of a soundtrack to life. Because life is short, cruel, and painful an there aren’t many acts who convey this as accurately as Uniform.

Shame explores all of the pains and anguish of shame and humiliation, the desire to bury one’s face or to disappear, and for all its harshness, all its abrasion, and all its brutality, Shame is an album that speaks on a deep emotional level. Shame hurts. It’s also harsh, abrasive, brutal, and as visceral an album as you’re likely to hear, and not just in clusterfuck 2020, but period.

The singles released online in advance of the album certainly give an idea of where it’s headed, but Shame needs to be heard in full – and at full volume of course – for maximum impact.

It crashes in with lead single ‘Delco’, possibly the most accessible of the ten cuts. It’s all relative, and by ‘accessible’ we’re looking at Ministry circa Psalm 69, with driving guitars dominating mangled vocals pegged low in the mix. The album swiftly descends into the depths of darkness, a murky blur of metal fury that combines the detached mechanisation of Ministry and Godflesh with the screeding impenetrable guitar noise.

The title track is tense, bleak, but there are hints of redemption at least in the intro before it turns dark and self-flagellatory. The refrain ‘That’s why I drink / That’s why I weep’ is another intertextual reference, this time made in homage to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode ‘Night of the Meek’. But it distils a dark intensity that is the essence of an internal pain that can only be soothed by a chemical anaesthetic. It’s so succinct, and so absolutely magnificent, despite being painful and ugly. We’re all fucked up, and personally, I’m more wary of those who present themselves as happy and normal than anyone else. Who are they rely lying to?

‘Dispatches from the Gutter’ is a sub-two-minute blast of gnarly noise that is virtual onomatopoeia, while ‘This Won’t End Well’ is a slow-paced, industrial trudge, and closer ‘I Am the Cancer’ is just horrible, a mess of frantically-paced guitars, mangled to fuck, and vocals, distorted beyond impenetrability, all cranked out fast and hard. And this is how this album would always have to end. It would have to be painful. It would have to be like peeling flesh. It would have to be like murder.

Shame sees no sign of Uniform softening, Moreover, as they try to make sense of this ugly, violent world, their music more conveys the confusion and the pain of being alive. Embrace it or don’t, but with Shame, Uniform captures the spirit and the anguish of life right now.

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