Published Aug 14, 2018No one could mistake Uniform for a subtle band. The industrial punk duo bury grim character studies beneath monstrous programmed beats, snarling guitar distortion, and the garbled, nasally shouts of singer Michael Berdan. Extremity is the name of their game, but Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg are at least utility players. Wake in Fright, the outfit's second album, ran the gamut from EBM to hardcore to noise. The message was blunt, but the mood was surprisingly variable.
Unfortunately, little of that versatility carried over to the Brooklyn band's followup. Inspired in part by Stephen King's pseudonymous dystopian novel, The Long Walk captures the sensation of its namesake's death march. Monotonous and exhausting, it belabours its best ideas until they collapse under the strain.
Granted, at least Berdan and Greenberg aren't jogging on the spot. They've brought in Liturgy drummer Greg Fox to take on rhythm duties, relegating their programmed percussion to an incessant bass rumble. Early tracks wield these techniques like a club, bludgeoning listeners with a sense of ominous futility. The circular structure of "Inhuman Condition" heightens this feeling of depletion and decay, while the noisier parts of "Found" become so frayed and distorted that the track itself seems to disintegrate. These tracks may not be pleasant, but they do make the band's hopelessness palpable.
But it doesn't take long for despair to give way to tedious repetition. Greenberg's overdriven guitar alternates between choppy strumming and drawn out whole notes, the drum machine remains set to a constant roll, and Fox maintains a similar loping pace for most of the album. "Transubstantiation" and "Headless Eyes" both cut out abruptly midway through, but neither track builds enough to make these interruptions effective. Where Wake in Fright felt lean and energetic, The Long Walk is bloated and tired, not so much a fulfilling, purposeful exercise as a slow crawl to nowhere in particular. (Sacred Bones)