Boris & Uniform – Bright New Disease

Posted: 24 May 2023 in Albums
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Sacred Bones – 16th June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re the first to admit that this pairing may seem like an unusual one, having first teamed up for a US tour in 2019: as the bio notes, ‘Sure, both bands harness the power of big, blown-out riffs, but Boris’s rock heroics, lysergic sprawl, and monolithic sludge summon a different energy than Uniform’s mechanized bombardments and frenzied assaults.’ But often the most exciting and unexpected results emerge when pairing contrasts rather than sameness. Put two drone bands together, you can predict the outcome will be amplified drone; sludge with sludge equals more sludge, and industrial matched with industrial is unlikely to yield any great surprises. Yes, pairing like with like makes sense, it’s safe, there’s an intuition and interplay that comes from familiarity with the territory and the form, and fans will likely be happy being served a double helping of what they like.

But neither Boris nor Uniform are acts who are overly concerned with appeasement: that isn’t to say they don’t care about their fans, but more that they both trust their fan bases to be broad-minded and accommodating of the idea that creative fulfilment is integral to their existence. Even those more casually acquainted with their respective catalogues will recognise that both Boris and Uniform are driven, not by the desire to entertain, but to follow their creative instincts. The way these manifest musically are very different, but in this context, the parallels become more apparent, and it also becomes easier to understand their mutual appreciation for one another. And neither act is new to the spirit of collaboration, with Boris having have collaborated with the likes of Sunn O))), Merzbow, and Keiji Haino, and Uniform having previously released a blistering collision with The Body back in 2018, as well as remixes with Zombi more recently.

It will be news to no-one that this is big on riffs, that it’s loud and heavy, but this is a collaboration like no other: ordinarily, artists will bring their ‘thing’ to the table, and the songs will represent the meeting in the middle ground. This isn’t so much the case on Bright New Disease: the two acts are given equal billing and play evenly to their strengths and stylistic methodologies: but don’t necessarily play ‘together’ in the conventional sense. But when did either Boris or Uniform do ‘conventional’?

The album’s first track, ‘You are the Beginning’, aired online a few weeks ago, is the perfect combination of the two bands’ individual sounds: hard, heavy, the blistering harsh industrial intensity of Uniform, angular, antagonistic, crackling with the punk-tinged rage of Michael Berden, suddenly melts into a wild blitz of fretwork which paves the way for a monster thrash workout. Even the tone and texture shifts from harsh treble to murky mid-range, and it feels like a song of two halves. Quite unexpectedly, it works. When you weight up the value of any collaboration the question is always ‘is it different from or better than their independent works?’ Bright New Disease throws a curveball in that it’s a yes and a no at the same time, and that’s the genius of it.

The explosive ‘Weaponized Grief’ is a sub-two-minute blast of feedback and fury, and another thing which is notable about Bright New Disease is just how short the songs are. While there are a couple over four minutes and the finale, ‘Not Surprised’ does just creep over five minutes, the majority are significantly shorter, and condense a lot into those brief times, too.

‘No’ goes all-out grindcore / thrash in a two-and-a-half- minute flurry of churning guitars, but at the same time there’s something vaguely Spinal Tap – or Melvins –about its overblown excesses, and this may be a short album, but it’s high impact, and that’s true of much of the album: they slam down riff after riff with relish. ‘Endless Death Agony’ brings together the boldest excess of Boris with the most brutal attacks of Uniform, with a shrieking guitar solo fading out ahead of a most punishing riff with more solo mania blistering and melting on top, before the megalithic slow grind of ‘Not Surprised’ drags its way through the pits of hell.

Apart from the gloomy atmospheric suspense of the intro to ‘The Look is a Flame’ there really isn’t much respite on Bright New Disease. It’s harsh, heavy, relentless, by turns sludgy and slow, or otherwise frantic, frenetic, explosive – and packed with surprises, from the murky ambience of ‘The Sinners of Hell’ to the bubbling electronica of ‘Narcotic Shadow’ that sounds more like DAF collaborating with A-Ha and the straight-up glam pop of ‘A Man from the Earth’. Never could I have anticipated describing anything involving Uniform as ‘glam pop’. But then they kill it hard with ‘Endless Death Agony’, which is some brutal shit. Bright New Disease is everything all at once: it’s often punishing, sometimes spectacularly theatrical, and (almost) always heavy, but it’s smartly realised and expounds the importance of identity as both bands showcase and celebrate theirs in triumphant tandem.



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