Boris & Uniform Compartmentalize the Catharsis on 'Bright New Disease'

BY Marko DjurdjićPublished Jun 13, 2023

In March 2020, I was preparing to go see Uniform play with the Body; due to the onset of the pandemic, that concert never came to fruition. Flash forward just over three years later and Uniform is back with a new album and tour, though as of writing, there are no Toronto stops — Irony truly is a dead scene. Fortunately though, the aforementioned new album is a collaboration with Japan's preeminent masters of cathartic heaviness, the metal-slash-drone-slash-hard rock-slash-post-everything powerhouse, Boris.

Neither band is a stranger to collaboration: Uniform has made three with the Body (2018's Mental Wounds Not Healing, 2019's Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back and 2020's Live at the End of the World), while the absurdly prolific Boris has worked with everyone from Merzbow, Keiji Haino, Sunn O))) and the Cult's Ian Astbury. Although Boris and Uniform toured the U.S. together in 2019, they never recorded together until now, which brings us to the dark, overwhelming slab that is Bright New Disease.

Save for the 9-second (!) drone intro that opens the thrashy throwback "You Are the Beginning," the album is relentless. Written and recorded in the eye of the pandemic, Bright New Disease often feels like a distillation of the disparate moods and feelings associated with the last few years, its anguished vocals and bleak, relentless sound acting as a monument to isolation, fear, aggression, resignation, catharsis, resilience, acceptance and disgust. The nine desolate tracks crack and bleed, mashing everything from piercing hardcore ("Weaponized Grief," "No") and chaotic doom ("The Look Is a Flame"), to industrial dark wave ("Narcotic Shadow"), distorted synthpop ("A Man from the Earth") and bubbling, unsettling ambience on "The Sinners of Hell (Jigoku)." Clearly, the last few years have left very little to be optimistic about.

The two bands work well together, and their ability to adapt various genres and influences — both heavy and otherwise — is more than impressive. Unfortunately, the album often feels like an exercise in knowing winks, and while the variety is commendable, it quickly becomes overindulgent. Its sequencing may be its biggest misstep: the fast songs follow the fast songs, the slow songs follow the slow songs, the groovy songs follow the groovy songs, and it all just feels a bit too compartmentalized, as if the bands wrote the songs at different points in their collaboration and present them here in that chronological order.

While the last two tracks, "Endless Death Agony" (a forgettable metalcore burner with some crossover flourishes) and "Not Surprised" (a behemoth finale and the best song on the record) break up this approach, it leaves one wondering whether the album would have benefitted from some editing, with the final product feeling more like a compilation or a mixtape rather than a unified vision. Perhaps it's allegorical, reflecting our collective yet very opposing approaches to pandemic management, or the stages of the pandemic itself; regardless, it's a bit too exacting, undermining the power of the individual songs in favour of concept.

Cynical and crushing, Bright New Disease is the sound of a short-term supergroup flexing their technical skills and boundless musical knowledge. It stands as a commendable and blistering — albeit slight — diversion from either band's respective output. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. 
(Sacred Bones)

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