“Industrial-influenced” has had a reputation for being inhuman and cold, its negativity delivered in a detached and mechanical manner. Yet with Uniform there’s always been something atypically human about their music, with an individual sense of hurt and hostility characterising their sound. That sense of individuality and humanity is what shines through on latest album Shame, the first that sees the addition of drummer Mike Sharp to the band. The use of live rather than programmed drums makes a considerable difference to Uniform’s sound and forms one of the new record’s key aspects.
The basis of Shame will be familiar to anyone who has previously listened to Uniform – riffs with the size and force of collapsing buildings, relentless rhythms, and damaged, desperate vocals telling tales of misery. The punk background of long-time members Michael Berdan (vocals) Ben Greenberg (guitars) is evident in the way these songs are structured as attacks and personal exorcisms, shorn of all superfluous elements and rendered down into sharp points. There’s also more than a few riffs on Shame that could have come from the 80’s hardcore back-catalogue, with ‘Dispatches from the Gutter’ in particular being a vicious slice of industrial punk. Yet much of the album moves with the familiar stomp of industrial metal, where weight and impact matters more than speed – the violence comes as much from a sense of disintegration as it does anything else.
That sense of collapse is, thematically, what characterises Shame. This is a bleak album of bad choices and worse results, drawing heavy influence from fiction and cinema, and even if the lyrics aren’t always clear in the songs (masked as they can be by static or intentionally warped production, as on ‘This Won’t End Well’, or placed slightly behind the guitars in the mix to give them a sense of ambiguity), the emotional meaning is. The previously mentioned use of live drums also plays a considerable role in this – they give the songs a slightly looser, more organic feel than is the norm for industrial, and with this comes an added sense of humanity. It’s not the first time Uniform have recorded with live drums – The Long Walk also featured them – but their use here feels more fully realised, as if they were a part of the writing process rather than trying to replicate a drum machine.
Ultimately, Shame is an emotionally messy album, and intentionally so. The lyrics that bookend the album – “You are what you’ve done/You are what’s been done to you” on opener ‘Delco’ and “God will not love you forever” on closer ‘I Am the Cancer’” – should make that clear. It’s an album that seethes with hurt and negativity, directing it to all points of the compass as well as inward, making this a record for Very Bad Times. Yet even if redemption is never on the cards, Shame still offers plenty of opportunities for catharsis, and even something close to self-acceptance. You’re unlikely to enjoy your time with Shame, but it feels like enjoyment was never the point – it aims for something more important, and manages it in suitably unpleasant style.
Shame is out on September 11 via Sacred Bones and can be purchased here.
Words: Stuart Wain