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Uniform - The Long Walk Music Album Reviews

The Brooklyn industrial act trades its signature drum machine for Guardian Alien/Liturgy drummer Greg Fox, harnessing his intensity to fuel their most unified—and most deranged—record to date.

For a band that hasn’t been around for terribly long, Brooklyn industrial duo Uniform has undergone many mutations. Vocalist Michael Berdan and guitarist/programmer Ben Greenberg began as a dystopian industrial-noise outfit that only occasionally showed glimpses of both members’ punk pasts—but by their second record, Wake in Fright, they were injecting thrash fusion with Big Black-level freakouts. In that sense, Uniform were moving in the opposite direction from their recent collaborators the Body, transitioning from relatively loose textures to something resembling conventional (albeit heavily damaged) metal. On their third album, The Long Walk, Uniform expand into a trio. And the addition of drummer Greg Fox, of Guardian Alien and Liturgy, yields a sound that is both more unified and more deranged than ever.

Greenberg’s tone used to be harsh and dry, a style that complemented the bleakness of Uniform’s first record and Fright’s more focused thrash. Here, he turns up the bass and the noise, never shifting out of overdrive. This intensity makes Uniform feel more unhinged, even if their mode of assault hasn’t changed greatly; Greenberg is splattering all over Walk, not deploying tight, disciplined attacks. He dispenses with most of Fright’s crossover influence, in favor of mangled, mid-paced riffing, like Celtic Frost recorded through a series of budget amps and distortion pedals, then played at deafening volume.

There isn’t much clarity to be found here. Each riff is a block of noise, and that approach lends the album an unusually chunky feel on the whole. “Headless Eyes” and “Found” have blocky ’90s noise-rock grooves, but unlike most acts that fall into that genre, Uniform place the most emphasis on the noise half of that equation. Walk’s track sounds like a doom band led by a power-electronic musician: heavy on the Sabbath stomp, yet gloriously muddy.

Even with the addition of a formidable presence like Fox, the prospect of Uniform without their signature drum machine seemed worrisome. Much like industrial-metal pioneers Godflesh, Uniform relied on that robotic percussion to bring their music to (mechanical, coldhearted) life. Fox, who entered the studio on super-short notice, brings his own approach to drum-machine rhythms, accentuating the snare’s thudding beats, and introduces a slight imbalance into the band’s sound. This record doesn’t have any gothy, quasi-dance songs like Fright’s “The Lost”; instead, Fox incorporates that rhythmic repetition into Uniform’s blown-out chug. You don’t call in a drummer like this one for icy precision; Walk is the messiest record they’ve ever made. Fox doesn’t fully flex his muscles until the end of closer “Peaceable Kingdom,” but his presence adds a touch of wildness to each track.

Yet for all its controlled chaos, The Long Walk is Uniform’s most stylistically consistent record. One key point of divergence is “Alone in the Dark,” which revisits the band’s industrial origins, bringing new overtones of desperation. The track feels like it’s running from something, rather than simply destroying everything in its path. It’s the only song on the album that embodies the same fear it inspires, with Greenberg’s escalating riffs matching Berdan’s preternatural nervousness. “Alone” is the most uncomfortable moment on a record that feels more terrifying than anything Uniform have done before, precisely because it locates a fragile human spirit within the band’s visions of robotic terror.

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