Album review: Boris and Uniform – Bright New Disease

4/5

A surprising union between two seemingly divergent sound makers is only one view of Bright New Disease (released on June 16 via Sacred Bones) by Boris and Uniform. Across 30-plus years and literally dozens of albums (when you include all the other collabs) Japan’s Boris have shown themselves to be almost unmatched in their capacity to play with different styles. So while the idea of Boris as purveyors of dreamy, expansive (sometimes pop-infused) rock music might seem a strange mix with the dark, industrialized stomp of Uniform, one should never overlook the shapeshifting nature of Boris

Taking their name from a song by sludge-rock icons Melvins, Boris had already referenced Nick Drake, collaborated with drone-metal pioneers Sunn O))), and toured with Nine Inch Nails by the time they were flirting with bouncy electro-pop on Attention Please in 2011. While it’s hard to imagine Uniform alluding to Nick Drake at any time, their snarling, mechanized attack would probably play well with a Nine Inch Nails crowd.   

Through the opening third of the album, it seems a template has been laid down. Grimy, fuzzy, dirty guitars and bass hammer along, part Melvins rock, part thrash metal—a couple of rapid, face-melting guitar solos from Boris’ Wata and the snarling vocals of Uniform’s Michael Berdan (in the vein of Exodus’ Steve “Zetro” Souza) fit the latter mould. 

From here, though, the album offers some surprises, first swerving through a genuinely menacing, downtempo, wheezing nightmare on “The Look is a Flame.” A dark and eerie instrumental follows, like a disembodied spirit circulating around a haunted house, before a totally different record appears to spring up with the electro, robot sci-fi of “Narcotic Shadow.” By the end of the record, the sludge meter has been recalibrated, the album closing with the crushing, overdriven crawl of “Not Surprised.” It does make for quite a surprising journey. 

So yes, in some respects, the marriage of Boris and Uniform is an odd one, but maybe that’s exactly the aim. Uniform may not be the genre hoppers that Boris are, but they’re no strangers to experimentation. On Bright New Disease, Berdan’s rabid snarls, alongside the varied vocal styles from Boris, Wata’s unchained guitar lines, and the shared noise explorations of both bands find the openings and the channels to fit together. A twisted union, but a strong one.

Order the album via Sacred Bones Records.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

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