Uniform & The Body, “Mental Wounds Not Healing”

A collaboration that is a chilling assessment of our national disharmony.
Uniform & The Body, “Mental Wounds Not Healing”

A collaboration that is a chilling assessment of our national disharmony.

Words: Mike LeSuer

June 12, 2018

Uniform & The Body
Mental Wounds Not Healing

If you’re a stranger to the underground legends involved in the collaborative album Mental Wounds Not Healing, the horror-movie screams haunting the record from the twenty-second mark on will likely stick out to you as an anomaly, nearly smoke-detector-like in their irreverent disharmony. While the snarling vocals of Uniform’s Michael Berdan recall a recent period of fertility in New York’s harsh punk scene and a present-day thriving Sacred Bones industrialism, The Body’s vocal contributions seem more like an unintelligible constant undermining the full-contact instrumentation with an unignorable presentness.

If you are familiar with both artists, Mental Wounds can still be an alienating experience, as The Body’s pairing with a relatively unmetallic collaborator spotlights the somewhat absurd nature of their composition—Chip King’s blood-curdling (or DiMaggio-attracting) yelps and doomy guitar pasted over Lee Buford’s heavy-hitting percussion. Since forming in 1999, The Body have tallied a total of fifteen full-lengths—fourteen released this decade, half of which were in conjunction with droning co-conspirators, including Thou and The Haxan Cloak. Most recently teaming up with the powerviolence collective Full of Hell for a pair of releases, The Body have proven their compatibility with bands outside of their own scene, yet Mental Wounds is their first release in which they’ve proven themselves somewhat outside of their comfort zone.

Yet from the perspective of someone who’s followed Berdan’s career from the abrupt crash-and-burn of Drunkdriver to the pummeling empathy of Uniform, Mental Wounds is revelatory. Not only is it Berdan’s first release featuring live drums since his hardcore band’s infamous collapse nearly a decade ago (Uniform, York Factory Complaint, and Believer/Law have all featured programmed percussion or no percussion at all), it’s also a return to the industrial minimalism of the band’s 2015 debut after their chaotic inauguration-day-released follow-up in 2017. Swapping references to Ozploitational anxiety for Soviet brutal realism on the album’s debut single, “Come and See,” the record mostly adopts a pace more suited to the droning Body than to its otherwise-constricting Uniform.

In accord with its Soviet humanity, Mental Wounds Not Healing takes its title from an incredibly sobering lyric in Ozzy’s “Crazy Train,” a song about a traumatized post–Cold War generation coming of age with debilitating trust issues (and, alternatively, about getting hyped for sports). Despite The Body specializing in doom metal and Uniform taking cues from the sadistic power electronics of Whitehouse, the sum of these unquestionably spooky parts is often uniquely counterbalanced, as by the near-jungle beat of “The Curse of Eternal Life” or the closing “Empty Comforts” crescendoing into the reassuring twangs premiered on Uniform’s staggering “Indifference.” Far from the sterilized bat-chomping arena metal of its namesake, Uniform and The Body have given us an equally chilling assessment of our national disharmony—horror movie conventions and all.