Formed 2013, Uniform (Michael Berdan – vocals, Ben Greenberg – guitar, production), wasted no time in setting out theirs stalls, presenting themselves as a band immersed in a cauldron of white noise with their 2015 debut, Perfect World.
2017’s Wake in Fright followed a similar path while 2018’s The Long Walk saw the band add live drums to their repertoire. The ideas were there, but there was something missing. In any sense, you felt a storm brewing.
Following their underrated collaboration albums with kindred spirits, The Body, in 2018’s Mental Wounds Not Not Healing and Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back, we are indeed in the ire of that very storm with Uniform‘s fourth release, Shame.
In the lead-up to this release, Berdan when on to claim that Shame is “like a classic hard-boiled paperback novel without a case.”
With the likes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet and James Ellroy being name-checked by Berdan, other novelists also spring to mind when talking about destructive individual characters that portray contrasting internal and external qualities. Both Cormac McCarthy and Denis Lehane for starters.
Berdan and Greenberg added drummer Mike Sharp to the line-up during their 2018 tour with Deafheaven and his inclusion behind the skins for Shame marks a vital new breadth to the band. His metallic thrashing style very much the saucer of rat poison both Berdan and Greenberg have been craving with this project.
With Greenburg also prolific in production and mixing, the band opted to draft in an individual his equal and, without sounding disingenuous to Greenberg, a producer that has a slightly wider reach – the king of doom from behind the studio glass that is Randall Dunn (Steve Von Till, Marissa Nadler, Sunn O))), Algiers et al).
Convening at Dunn‘s Circular Ruin studio, with Shame the perfect storm has emerged.
The first spitfire arrives in the way of Delco. Perhaps one of the most impressive opening tracks you’ll hear in 2020.
Inspired by Berdan‘s upbringing in Delaware County, Delco is the sound of a heart exploding from a rib-cage with, knife-flashing vocals, firestorm drums and serrated guitars.
The Shadow of God’s Hand is very much a Uniform song both in title and sound. A deconstructed cold-eyed psychedelic swoon unfolds into a sludgy mire of throttling crust-punk. Life In Remission follows with Uniform taking a different path yet again, the song a sordid affair between garage-metal and speed-punk.
With its creepy electro-rock sprawl that feels as if were conceived from a mould-ridden dungeon, the album’s title track underpins everything about this album. About Uniform. It’s a bid to shake off the existential dread that Berdan has been using as the band’s reference point since its inception.
All I Ever Wanted and Dispatches from the Gutter are nihilistic shards of lo-fi noise-rock while This Won’t End Well once again sees those slow/fast tempo changes between sludgy restless downturns and raging bursts of noise.
Closing number, I Am The Cancer is a fitting end to this bedlam. A towering clamour of freight train-drumming and arching guitar flange that morphs into an atmospheric hell-scape like Satin himself is dragging you to the gates of hell.
As always, Dunn stitches together this record in what is a urgent flash of aggression, the sound of one trying to escape from their own skin. The sound of existential anxiety and trying to cope with what’s in front of you, day-by-day.
While it may not have shifted too far from Uniform‘s blueprint, with Shame Uniform have never sounded so assured.
While harder-nosed sounding records have been somewhat underrepresented in 2020, Uniform fly the flag commendably with what can only be described as dead-eyed chamber punk. Shame welcomes in the punks, the metal heads, and, of course, the noise-rock aficionados.
It’s a withering coalition of sounds from the darkest pits one can excavate and on Shame, Uniform give the best representation of themselves so far.
Shame is out now via Sacred Bones.