Boris & Uniform – Bright New Disease

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Boris Uniform Bright New Disease review

In hindsight, Bright New Disease seemed inevitable. Both Boris and Uniform are veterans of underground metal, neither of them strangers to collaborative recordings, whether via Boris’ series of noisescapes with Merzbow and Sunn O))) or Uniform’s industrial-metal nightmare soundtracks with The Body. And in 2019, the two bands shared the stage for a U.S. tour (and shortly thereafter Sacred Bones labelmates) the experience of which led the two bands to find an immediate harmony together, which led them to translate that chemistry into the studio. Of course that’s what would happen—it just makes sense.

None of which makes the existence of Bright New Disease any less fun or, for that matter, any less spectacular of an experiment. As with the best metal collaborations in recent years—and there are many, including Thou’s grungy LP with Emma Ruth Rundle and The Body’s unexpected folk record with Big|Brave—it’s less a recording of two bands plugging in and playing at the same time than a more complementary permutation of the two band’s approaches. It helps that they each come from a different starting point, Uniform with punishing industrial-thrash and Boris with ominous clouds of noxious drone and riff-heavy stoner metal. When sharing the space of two sides of vinyl, these two bands show just how much space exists between those two endpoints.

On its face, Bright New Disease wouldn’t necessarily seem as radical a collision of sounds as some of the collabs mentioned above. But they present a proof of concept early on, and it doesn’t take long for the nuances to begin to show between the power-chord chugs and agonized barks. “You Are the Beginning” opens with Ben Greenberg’s abrasive guitar tone and Michael Berdan’s throaty screams, Uniform’s signature sound. But within the first minute the harmonic squeals of Wata and Takeshi’s guitars begin to color in the background, and what feels immediately familiar is given a subtle new context, as if Boris is allowing us to hear Uniform’s music from a different angle, and vice versa.

Though the songs that immediately follow “You Are the Beginning” are a continuation of similar ideas, the songs become gradually more open and diffuse as the album continues, introducing new elements, changing tempos, rotating vocalists and even dropping an icy synth arpeggio into the spotlight on “Narcotic Shadow.” Given that both bands are often at their best when blazing through their most direct and riff-driven material (though not exclusively), the most rewarding surprise about Bright New Disease is that much of its best material is also its most slow burning. A highlight such as the slow, haunted crawl of “The Sinners of Hell (Jigoku)” doesn’t necessarily scan as either band at first, but feels complementary next to the grungy melodic groove of “A Man from the Earth” or the hellacious doom of “The Look is a Flame.” Though the album closes at its most overwhelming with “Not Surprised,” its dense churn gradually filling in with more richly defined layers and wild squeals of guitar soaring over its low-end center of gravity.

That both Boris and Uniform have a healthy appetite for noise and feedback helps to make this all work that much better, the din and dissonance providing the adhesive connecting apocalyptic pummel to psychedelic drone. As a result, Bright New Disease feels adjacent to chaos but rarely in danger of being overcome by it, an expert but freewheeling collaborative effort that finds both bands playing to their strengths but feeling comfortable enough not to necessarily stop there. It’s unavoidable when listening to it to get the sense that this was a lot of fun to make, and in using it as an opportunity to throw a mess of new ideas at the wall only ended up making it that much more enjoyable to listen to.

Label: Sacred Bones

Year: 2023

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