The duo of Michael Berdan and Ben Greenberg have managed to present us with something completely different with each of their releases as the cranky metal project Uniform—not to mention each of the albums’ ensuing tours. Experimenting with live drums since a successful collaboration with shrieky noisemakers The Body in 2018 made a convincing case for replacing their drum machine, the pair (now a trio, with Mike Sharp taking on drums after a stint with Greg Fox) have only continued to evolve with each release.
Shame, the band’s sixth album in five years, feels like the least experimental of the lot only in the sense that it sounds the most grounded. The pummeling lead single/album opener “Delco” injected their familiar industrial horrorcore sound with a (relatively) restrained guitar line that manages to replicate the same sense of endless, cyclical horror Berdan touches upon in his referential lyrics and song titles inspired by the cult horror filmography of the ’70s and ’80s (speaking of horror films, check out that self-immolation vid below). Eight-minute closer “I am the Cancer” drives this theme home—being eight minutes and all—with a considerably more frantic energy that sounds more influenced by Liturgy than, say, the obscure Australian New Wave thriller they named their second LP after.
One throughline you could easily draw through the band’s discography (besides the movies thing—these guys really love movies) is their discernibly Sacred Bones-y allegiance to murky electronics, something even their hardcore-punkiest records can’t shake. We were curious to hear just which SB releases Uniform consider their albums to be most akin to—Berdan likely made some tough choices narrowing it down to just four, but read on to hear his take on those choices.
I wonder if this is the best-selling power electronics record of all time? It very well might be. Regardless of that status, Abandon is one of the most conceptually rich and sonically agonizing efforts in the entirety of the genre. Margaret’s vocal delivery is a force of nature that feels akin to the tormented howls of Diamanda Galas or It from Abruptum. That voice, coupled with her abuse of frequency-modulated drones and rhythms straight out of a death march, make listening to Abandon a truly harrowing experience. In a stroke of genius, the record starts with a broken scream that morphs into a steady high-pitched tone that lasts throughout the first track. Truly terrifying stuff.
His Electro Blue Voice, Duuug
His Electro Blue Voice are one of the more compelling projects to emerge from the garage goth revival of the late aughts. All of their records are varied, and all of them will stand the test of time. The Duuug 7-inch was their lone appearance on Sacred Bones, but it left an indelible mark. These two songs just seethe with murderous intent while remaining impossibly catchy. The title track contains hook after hook that rival those of Bob Mould and Grant Hart on their best days. Like potato chips and heroin, I bet you can’t just try it once.
Zola Jesus, Stridulum II
God, what a stunning album this is. I was a real fan of The Spoils, but little did I know that record was just a cocooning period for what was to come. The two EPs contained in Stridulum II, Stridulum and Valusia, found Nika confidently stepping away from her lower-fidelity roots. It almost seemed as if she had unleashed a secret superpower rivaling the likes of Siouxsie Sioux. Nothing would ever be the same for her ever again. The songs on this modern classic will burrow their way into your brain and live there forever.
Side note: My old band almost played a basement show with ZJ in Wisconsin during her early days, but she had to cancel. Man, I wish that I could say, “My old band played a basement show with Zola Jesus,” but I can’t, so this anecdote is pointless. Sorry.
Are reissues cheating? Do I care? Nah, I don’t care. Vex are one of the finest Killing Joke clones of all time. It was forever hard to come by a copy of the Fight Back Records version of Sanctuary or the comp stuff, so when Sacred Bones took this record up I was particularly excited. Anthem after anthem, these always provide an emotional gut punch when I’m looking for one. Sure, they sounded exactly like Killing Joke and lifted their riffs even more blatantly than Nirvana did. As far as I’m concerned, the world will forever need more of that. I’d be way more excited about music if everything just sounded like Killing Joke all of the time.