Boris & Uniform - Bright New Disease (Album Review)

July 12, 2023


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Listen to Boris & Uniform

The last time I saw Boris on-stage was in 2019 with Uniform supporting, and it was a pleasant surprise when the members of Uniform joined the group for an encore performance of “Akuma no Uta”.  It was clear that there was some chemistry between the two bands, so it was a pleasant surprised a few months ago to discover that a collaborative album titled Bright New Disease was releasing soon.  If you’re even remotely familiar with Boris, you know they can span any number of genres on a single album, but Uniform’s touched upon some similar experimentation filtered through hardcore punk and industrial.  This approach has been continued on Bright New Disease, which spans everything from hardcore, thrash, doom, and even some beautifully goth leaning synthpop.  Not every track lands with as much impact as these bands on their own, but there’s something to be said for the frantic and varied way they have jammed everything together.

Given that a lot of the writing for the album was done during the height of the pandemic, the title Bright New Disease and more frantic, angry tone that is prevalent throughout much of the material makes perfect sense.  For the first three tracks Boris and Uniform jointly deliver an onslaught of faster riffs that feel somewhere between Japanese hardcore and thrash, but there’s an industrial/noisier sheen to these songs that makes them feel in line with what Boris did on No alongside Uniform’s more recent material.  Once you get to “The Look is a Flame” things slow way down, bringing in that trademark drone/doom sound that stretches out layers of distortion and darker riffs.  It’s here that the album offers up some genuinely dark and desolate atmosphere and starts to offer up some additional substance and variation besides just brute force, and the songwriting only gets more diverse the further in you get.  “Narcotic Shadow” might be the biggest surprise, as synths dominate and the sound pivots over to something that’s between synthwave and synthpop, reminding me a bit of Greg Puciato’s most recent solo effort.  That’s followed up by “A Man From the Earth” which is one of Bright New Disease’s lighter moments, moving into upbeat rock that recalls Boris’ Pink.  The shifts from abrasive and loud to dark and dreary sometimes feel like they’re on the verge of collapsing inward, but with the skill of these two bands that never happens and listeners are taken on a wild ride.  Admittedly I found the most interesting pieces to be the slower dips into industrial leaning doom as well as the unexpected synthpop diversion, as while the more straightforward hardcore and rock tracks aren’t bad, they don’t quite stand out as much as past Boris or Uniform material.

If you’ve heard anything from Boris or Uniform, you should have a good idea of what to expect on the vocal front, though Bright New Disease does skew towards the harsher side of the spectrum.  Initially the Uniform side dominates, with Michael Berden’s abrasive screaming serving as the focal point on “You Are the Beginning” and “Weaponized Grief”, though there is some trademark Boris sing/screaming on “No”.  “Narcotic Shadow” is once again the exception to the rule here, as the majority of the album emphasizes the more abrasive and in your face vocal approaches from both bands but on this song you get much softer, goth sounding singing.  Some of the performances are rough around the edges and come across as overstretching their range, but if you’re familiar with Boris this is pretty normal for them and it just adds to their commitment to be high energy no matter what.  Tracks like “The Look is a Flame” prove to be standouts thanks to the interplay between the Boris and Uniform side of the aisle, and when the two truly merge together they create some stunning moments.

Boris and Uniform’s fusion is about what I’d expect, as it draws on the hardcore and punk influences of both bands while also tapping into some of the slower drone/doom and noisier electronic and industrial elements.  For me, the slower, methodical tracks and surprise move into synthpop serve as the highlights and make this album worth returning to, though I also found myself wondering if these musicians could experiment even further and tap into something truly different from their respective music.  Whether that happens or not, this is still an interesting collaboration that existing fans of either group should get some enjoyment out of.  Bright New Disease is available from Sacred Bones Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg