“You are what you’ve done/You are what’s been done to you,” Michael Berdan serratedly declares over and over at the start of “Delco,” the opening shot on Uniform’s Shame. Whichever one of those two statements has less appeal might reveal something about you, but neither thought is particularly comforting. Five seconds in, then, and Berdan and guitarist/producer Ben Greenberg have already hit their sweet spot.
Uniform thrive on discomfort; not the over-the-top kind found strewn along metal’s gorey fringes, but an existential dread more grounded in bleak and bare faces of reality.
Since its inception in 1992, to its peak in the mid-to-late 90s, industrial music – and industrial metal, at that – was about as mainstream as it gets. Acts like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Rammstein, Rob Zombie and Godflesh played to hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, peddling a mixture of thrash and doom riffs, Depeche Mode-inspired electronics and a hardcore experimental sensibility derived from acts as bizarre and eccentric as Throbbing Gristle and Coil and Cabaret Voltaire, and they did it with a sense of theatricality that heavy metal lost in the wake of grunge’s iconoclastic nihilism. Put simply, industrial made metal exciting again, and restored a sense of danger not heard in rock music since Axl, Slash and co.
At 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.
Photo by Ebru Yildiz Shame by Uniform "Delco," the opening song on Uniform's new LP Shame, is a good representation of the record's dominant sounds: big guitars that channel the tone of even bigger machinery, grinding away with the merciless action of the factory floor; vocals that are snarled and shouted through several layers of digital treatment; slamming, massively cavernous drums. Michael Berden's scary-intense voice and Ben Greenberg's crunching guitars have generated most of Uniform's grim pounding for the five years that they've been releasing records. Real drums are fairly new to the band, and Mike Sharp fills out the bottom end of "Delco" with a spirited menace that complements the song's raging, dangerous sensibility.