Published Sep 11, 2020At the end of June, the New York industrial metal trio Uniform began posting on Instagram about the movies, books, and music that were inspiring their then-in-the-works fourth album, Shame: recurring themes in these posts included violence, brutality, and a general feeling of powerlessness. "Books and cinema have always been integral to my life, and that is often because of how I relate to the themes and characters therein," said frontman Michael Berdan in a press release. "I am naturally shy and terrified of being misunderstood. This time around, I endeavored to trudge through those fears in order to explicitly articulate what goes on in a dreary corner of my inner life. To put it plainly: I was in a dark place."
From start to finish, Shame is heavily rooted in this dark place that Berdan describes. It is an exploration of the demented, self-immolating human psyche, both in Berdan's lyrics and the brutal layers of noise layered upon each track. Listening to Shame is a gut-wrenching and extremely visceral experience, and for this reason, it is the best album Uniform has put out to date.
It is not without a purpose that the album opens with Berdan repeatedly howling the phrases "You are what you've done" and "You are what's been done to you," in "Delco." Lyrically, Berdan is investigating the way that being mistreated affects an individual's worldview, forcing them to make bad decisions of their own. This, along with Ben Greenberg's distorted guitar riffs and new addition Mike Sharp's incendiary drums, makes the impact absolutely eviscerating.
Whereas most of the songs on Shame feature slow buildups and pure, unadulterated dread, "Dispatches from the Gutter" stands out for being relentlessly fast-paced for the entirety of its two-minute play time. Yet, in both its faster moments and its slower ones, Uniform pay close attention to details both big and small that make Shame relistenable.
The album's final song, "I Am the Cancer," is a satisfying eight-minute combination of ambient drones and intense death metal breakdowns; to close the album, it feels more than appropriate that Berdan uses his signature guttural vocal style to wail the words, "God is war / War endures." He is adopting the character of "The Judge" from Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian — somebody who has sinned past the point of no return, and one of the most despicable and shameful characters in literary history.
Shame is not only hard to listen to, but also hard to swallow and hard to digest. It thought-provoking music which is guaranteed to make listeners feel uncomfortable in their own skin; what more could you want from a new Uniform album? (Sacred Bones)