The New York duo Uniform are back with their vicious post-industrial dystopian cyberpunk. After their acclaimed 2017 LP, Wake in Fright, vocalist Michael Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg decided to challenge themselves again with a new album called The Long Walk, out via Sacred Bones Records on Aug. 17.
“This is our first record with a drummer,” Greenberg says, referencing Greg Fox from Liturgy and Zs, “which meant we had to completely reshape our entire setup. No more drum machines, no more backing tracks. But it still had to be Uniform. So, we worked out a system of drum triggers and a separate pedal setup for the guitar to generate a bass synth tone off of his playing. We added amps as well. So, really, it was a complete redesign, but we had to make sure it was all in the service of preserving the spirit and sound of the band.”
From the opening whirr of the title track, it’s clear that the band are onto something special. “I wanted this record to sound shredded but not lo-fi—a true tape recording,” Greenberg explains, “like the dream sequence in ‘Terminator 2’ when the nuke goes off near the playground.”
Recorded in Brooklyn’s Strange Weather Recording Studio in the first part of 2018, The Long Walk is eight new tracks with an entirely new dimension added to the signature Uniform sound. “The aggressive nature of the music is one of our few static elements,” Berdan asserts, “even in this record, which is more rooted in mid-tempo metal. In many ways, it is more deliberate than our previous outings, with more attention paid to structure.”
Lyrically, The Long Walk deals with paradoxes in spirituality and organized religion. “I grew up in a Catholic family, in a Catholic neighborhood,” Berdan says. “I went to Catholic school, and I was loosely involved with the Church. Over time, the more repressive elements—anti-choice, homophobia, assorted elements of dogmatic control, etc.—weighed down on me, so I left.”
“A few years back, I had been experiencing some emotional issues and found myself gravitating toward prayer as a form of meditation,” he continues. “Slowly, I began to attend church and enjoy the familiar rituals associated with the Mass. It is something that I take a good deal of peace from but that I also find to be inherently problematic. The human governing body of the Church is still rife with repressive and oppressive elements, and I find it hard to resolve that with many of its core altruistic, peaceful teachings. It is something that I wrestle with regularly.”
The title The Long Walk comes from a 1979 Stephen King—writing as Richard Bachman—novel about an oppressive government that forces some of its children to endure a grueling game in which there is only one survivor. The dystopian component is the main theme of this record, with a vision of the modern world as this imagined society that imposes a harmful, oppressive, and miserable existence on almost all of its members. “I think people do it to themselves, on the smallest scale all the way up to the largest mechanisms of society,” Greenberg asserts. “We’re deeply into late capitalism, so it’s no surprise that the rampant ennui of the last century has turned into a violent, miserable misanthropy.”
“History is cyclical, and I feel that we are either currently in or approaching a repeat of some very dark times,” Berdan says.
“In the modern world, religion and politics are a tar pit full of cannibals,” Greenberg adds.
“Yes,” Berdan replies, “they should be separate at all costs. Period.”
Photo by Ebru Yildiz