Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Bones’

Sacred Bones – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This collaborative release is as interesting as it is unexpected. Coming from the heavier and of the guitar-driven spectrum, it isn’t that the coming together of Emma Right Rundle and Thou is entirely unfitting, but it is unquestionably intriguing. The coming together of two such powerful forces has, unsurprisingly, yielded a work that is yet more powerful still.

As the press release observes, ‘while Emma Ruth Rundle’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ‘90s Seattle sound and later ‘90s episodes of Alternative Nation.’

Needless to say, it’s pretty heavy in places, and not just sonically, although the guitars – more of which shortly – feel heavy enough to shatter rocks, and again, to refer to the liner notes is to reaffirm this as they note how ‘The lyrical content of the album is a marriage of mental trauma, existential crises, and the ecstatic tradition of the expressionist dance movement. “Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.” Melodic, melancholic, heavy, visceral.’

The grunge influence in this album is apparent and significant, and it’s nearly all in the riffage – but this is an album with rang and depth as well as some serious heft.

‘Killing Floor’ sees the trudging guitar riff emerging from the swirling fog of an atmospheric instrumental intro that borders on shoegaze, Rundle’s voice rises majestically from the thickly distorted power chords and Earth-like picking, and never has she sounded more commanding, more subtly powerful, and never has she come closer to sounding like Chelsea Wolf. And yet, never has she sounded more unique: Bryan Funk’s strained guttural vocal snarls are utterly gut-ripping and contrast with her majestic, emotionally-rich intonation. It’s one of those songs that suck you straight in, and instantly, you’re drawn into the maelstrom.

The album’s shortest song, ‘Monolith’ is a raging beast of a tune a skull-crushing battering of overloading guitars that comes on like a grunge juggernaut, balancing melody with a density that you feel batter against your chest. ‘Ancestral Recall’ swings between brooding ethereality and raging metal, grace and abrasion, but for the most part, it’s little short of absolutely fucking terrifying, a banshee scream howling into a wall of churning guitar noise that’s utterly punishing.

In contrast to the full-on barrage, there are hints of the goth-folk of early All About Eve on the slower, more sedate ‘Magickal Cost’, and once again, the rich, lilting qualities of Emma’s voice comes to the fore. But when the levee breaks around the midpoint, all hell breaks loose, as multi-layered guitars swerve and bend through a tempest of raging noise and a deluge of percussion. The contrasts, cast simultaneously, are stunning and pack all the impact.

The album’s final cut, ‘The Valley’ is deep, a slow-builder with supple violins teetering hesitantly behind rolling drums and soft swell of clean, echo-soaked guitar. It’s by far the most conventional-sounding song on the album, with the folk-infused rock flavour of Fleetwood Mac being more to the fore than anything remotely alternative – but then the last minute and a half is unbridled sonic annihilation as all of the pent-up fury is unleased.

It’s a fitting final to an absolutely stunning album, an album which explores a broad sonic and emotional range to hit hard in the delivery.

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Emma Ruth Rundle (appearing courtesy of Sargent House) and Thou’s groundbreaking collaborative album, May Our Chambers Be Full sees its release October 30th via Sacred Bones. While their solo material seems on its face to be quite disparate, both prolific groups have spent their lauded careers lurking at the outer boundaries of heavy scenes, each having more in common with DIY punk and its spiritual successor, grunge.

The debut straddles a similar, very fine line both musically and thematically. While Emma’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ’90s Seattle sound and later ’90s episodes of Alternative Nation, while still retaining much of the artists’ core identities.

The visual art accompanying this work was created in collaboration with preeminent New Orleans photographer Craig Mulcahy. The faceless, genderless models are meant to emphasize this pervasive state of ambiguity and emotional vacillation, the images falling somewhere between modern high fashion and classical Renaissance.

Check the single here:

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Album Artwork | Photo By Craig Mulcahy

NYC primal punks Uniform share another work of art, an astonishing new video (directed by A. F Cortes) for "Life In Remission" the latest single from their new album Shame, out today via Sacred Bones.

About the track Berdan comments, "The lyrics of Life In Remission deal with loss, guilt, and the facade of a stable life. It’s about the persistent voice in my head constantly telling me that I’m a fraud and urging me toward self destruction. It’s about becoming numb to tragedy. It’s about seeing those around me suffer and die and knowing all too well that it just as easily could have been me a million times over. It’s a song of equal parts anger, regret, and cold despondency.”

The video director A.F Cortes adds, "With this video, I wanted to use the body as a communication tool of chaos. A deconstruction story told through ritual and action. Two friends’ bond is gone wrong from a visceral and perverse perspective. Inspired by abstract expressionism, instead of playing opposites with the music, I wanted to match its intensity like a Jackson Pollock painting, a piece that feels filthy, messy, claustrophobic, yet beautiful and contained."

Watch the video here:

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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NYC industrial trail blazers Uniform reveal the title track from their forthcoming album due September 11th on Sacred Bones. “Shame is the song that sets the thematic tone for the rest of the record, which seems appropriate for a title track. It is a portrait of someone riddled with regret in the process of drinking themselves to death. Night after night they sit in dark reflection, pouring alcohol down their throat in order to become numb enough to fall asleep,” vocalist Michael Berdan explains.

“I took inspiration from a few stories of alcoholic implosion, namely Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas. The line ‘That’s why I drink. That’s why I weep’ appears in homage to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode ‘Night of the Meek.’”

Listen to ‘Shame’ here:

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Photo By Ebru Yildiz

Sacred Bones

Christopher Nosnibor

Fucking yes: the news of a new Uniform album is welcome news. Not that a new Uniform album is ever going to be an uplifting experience, but a soundtrack to the torment of modern life. Few bands – not only now, but ever – have so perfectly articulated that noise in your head, the pain of being alive and completely fucking trapped on this planet with so many examples of a species who seem hellbent on bringing about their own extinction, and what’s more, completely deserve it.

Many fans will be devastated to hear, then, that they’ve gone pop on the lead single for their upcoming fourth album, Shame.

Of course I’m kidding. ‘Delco’ is less gnarly than previous outings, with actual chords distinguishable among the churn, and overall the sound is more balanced, less abrasive. But these things are relative. ‘Less abrasive’ means something approximating Filth Pig era Ministry, only with a shade less treble. It’s still a heavy grind, a relentless trudge of repetitive chord cycles and petulant, pissed-off vocals channelling all the angst. Still keeping it brutal.

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Sacred Bones – 16th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve barely recovered from Uniform’s last punishing album and the gut-punching spectacle of hearing it played live when they land a second collaboration with The Body, only a year on from their first, the punishing noise-fest that was Mental Wounds Not Healing. An album that roughly ravaged and picked deep into the scabs and scars, it was everything you’d expect from two of the most uncompromising acts around right now.

NY purveyors of sonic violence Uniform carve their own trench of frenzied fury, and if they lack variety, where they excel is in their capacity to relentlessly attack, spitting and spewing their raging antagonism and venomous vitriol, while experimental noise duo The Body have largely forged a career from adding layers of abrasion to myriad collaborations – and this one is no exception.

The press release provides a fair summary of the kind of noise contained on Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back: ‘Comprised of an amalgam of abrasive influence that spans Swans-y dirge and purge, Whitehouse’s clenched-jaw noise, middle-period Ministry’s penchant for metallic post-industrial everything, New Order’s nose for melodic emotionality, and Juicy J-inspired beats.’ It’s all in there, and none of it’s pleasant, although somewhat ironically, when pressed against the full-tilt ferocity of Uniform, The Body serve more as a counterbalance, as if the two have a certain cancelling effect on one another’s most extreme aspects. The result, then, isn’t intensified – it simply wouldn’t be possible – but mangled and mutated into a different distillation of the component parts.

‘Gallows in Heaven’ is perhaps a misleading opener, stylistically, sonically, and in terms of mood, in that it’s goth to the core, a deep, surging three-chord bass sequence and thunderous mechanoid drumming at its core. With a wonky, fractal guitar line weaving over the top, it’s a vintage slice of post-punk – only there’s feedback and extraneous noise all over and backed off in the distance, Michael Berdan’s vocals, eternally petulant, the epitome of fucked off with everything.

If ‘Not Good Enough’ sounds a bit like standard Uniform but with additional electronic noise thrown over the top of it, the thumping disco groove that underpins ‘Vacancy’, which shudders, shimmers, and howls, is another kind of proposition altogether. A snarling electronic bass booms in along with a jittery sequenced synth rhythm, and this is something that’s got ‘80s dancefloor’ all over it – or would have were it not for the mess of noise all over it.

‘Patron Saint of Regret’ is little more than a mess of noise at first, evolving into some kind of fucked-up post-Wu-Tang trip-hop crossover that miraculously works, while ‘Penance’ takes the hybridisation a step further, a collision of thumping industrial beats and lumbering synth chords, with tinkling 80s synths worthy of mid 80s Cure or A Flock of Seagulls and impenetrable shrieking vocals by way of an interlude from the grating keyboard drone.

The stripped back ‘All This Bleeding’ brings the industrial clank of NIN and gentle cascading synth melody –paired with the raging rants – of Prurient together to forge something both anguished and atmospheric. Twanging guitars echo around punishing percussion and create an unexpected spaciousness amidst the claustrophobic intensity. The electronic inches to the fore, culminating in the sample-soaked ‘Day of Atonement’, which consists of little more than a droning synth bass over spiky drumming and Berdan’s distorted vocal amidst a howl of excruciating extraneous noise.

Instead of softening the relentless blows, the graded transition toward the album’s final cut only accentuates the unforgiving nature of the material: the churning maelstrom of dark ambience of ‘Waiting for the End of the World’ is the sound of the apocalypse as a jaunty tune plays in the background and ‘Contempt’ grinds into the desolation of nihilistic blackness.

This feels like the collapse of it all, the degradation of society, represented in sonic form. It sounds like the cover looks. Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back is nothing short of devastating.

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Uniform and The Body

Today, Uniform unveil the second single off their highly anticipated album, The Long Walk – coming August 17th on Sacred Bones. ‘Alone in the Dark’ is an homage to Jack Sholder’s slasher flick of the same name. Vocalist Michael Berdan explains that “in the film, Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Donald Pleasance star as a gaggle of mental patients who escape an asylum during a power outage and proceed to hunt down their psychiatrist. In our song, I’m referencing my personal feelings of isolation that come in the middle of the night, when I’m left with only the sensation of college level existential terror and prayers to a God who may or may not be listening, if even there at all.”

The Long Walk already looks like being one of Aural Aggro’s albums of the year. Get your lugs round ‘Alone in the Dark’ here:

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Sacred Bones – 17 August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Of all of the bands to make an impact recently, Uniform’s arrival has to have been one of the most hard-hitting. Wake in Fright was appropriately-titled: a terrifying mess of industrial and punk compressed into a brutal explosion of unproduced noise, it was the kind of tinnitus-inducing horror that rang in your ears as you sat bolt upright at 4am in a sweaty state of anxiety after a bad dream. When I say ‘you’, I’m presenting the personal as universal.

Yet none of this really prepares anyone for its follow-up. Whereas its predecessor was a ragged, raging sonic inferno, raw and trebly, having expanded to a three-piece with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) joining Michael Berdan (vocals) and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg, The Long Walk (the title of which references a Stephen King book) brings a newfound density to intensify the ferocity. That doesn’t mean they’ve toned it down: if anything, they’ve cranked it up and added new dimensions to the ear-bleeding brutality that defines the Uniform sound.

If I were being cynical, I might contend that Uniform only have one song, which they repeat with various minor adjustments. Michael Berdan’s vocals are hardy varied: a raging punk sneer smeared across a cyclical riff that grates and throbs amidst a tempest of overloading noise as the needles all quiver towards the top of the red. It’s a simple method, but often, simplicity is most effective, especially when the aim is to produce art that drills directly through the skull into the soft tissue of the brain. Maximum impact doesn’t require complex algorithms or theory. Maximum impact taps into the most primitive aspects of the psyche, targets the visceral, punches straight into instinct. And maximum impact isn’t necessarily about variety: that isn’t Uniform’s ambition: they’re out to batter relentlessly at the senses. The effect of The Long Walk is cumulative. And that effect, for those predisposed, is anxietising, stressful. Listening to The Long Walk actually raises my heart rate, and makes me perspire. And really, so it should: this is intense, claustrophobic, a different kind of aggression that speaks of derangement and blind rage.

The Long Walk is as raw as it gets, to the extent that its complete lack of refinement makes some of the most aggressive, antagonistic, and purposefully unlistenable songs even less appealing: you actually have to get through the jarring noise, the treble, the wilfully impenetrable mixing and what could safely be described as anti-production – to find the songs, let alone the appeal. The be clear: this isn’t just noisy: it’s fucking nasty, and is the work of a band deliberately pushing even the most accommodating of listeners to their limits, if not away altogether. It’s almost as if they don’t want any fans.

I can relate: as a spoken word performer, I discovered greater satisfaction in driving as many people from the room within the first couple of minutes than a smattering of polite applause from a full room at the end. Producing art is not about popularity. It’s about release, about channelling, about, catharsis, about being true to oneself or one’s aesthetic. If it’s commercial, it’s probably not art.

I know that in my writing I’m prone to revert to various ‘paint’-related tropes when reviewing work of a certain volume and / or intensity. But Uniform absolutely fucking decimate. Everything.

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Uniform hit us with their most powerful, most emotional and bleakest endeavour yet. Vocalist Michael Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg have joined forces with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) to perfect their vicious post-industrial dystopian cyber-punk and are ready to announce their new studio album The Long Walk incoming via Sacred Bones on 17th August. They’ve also revealed a video for the album’s lead single ‘The Walk’. Created by Danny Perez, the video highlights the cynicism, absurdities and downright bloodlust of our current news cycle. 

Intense doesn’t cut it. Check it here: