Uniform-Wake in Fright: Album Review

In using such a dense percussive and synthetic foundation on most of their songs, Uniform’s Ben Greenberg and Michael Berdan set themselves up with the daunting task of cutting through enough to add their own personalities into the pummeling environment of their electronics.  Both tend to ride a strained, animalistic delivery on vocals and guitar making for an absolutely jarring work, particularly on the tracks that anchor the project. However, the duo does do a great job of contrasting their default setting.  From tracks that dive into a bit of horrifying spoken word, to others that feature slow, methodical punches of noise alongside Berdan’s screams, and even one that strives into a more optimistic mood, Wake in Fright manages to surprise at every turn.  Although the lyrics tend to be pretty indiscernible, the two major points where they become more clear seem to construct a bit of a narrative, making for a cohesive project that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

“Tabloid” puts the pedal to the metal right away.  A snappy, repetitive vocal melody runs throughout to match a chugging guitar pattern.  The rhythmic electronics are completely filled to the brim making for stagnation in a vicious, cloudy space.  This track works very well as an opener.  It’s three minutes of what Uniform does best with no glimmer of light to spare.  The pure energy of the first track carries over to “Habit,” but already we see a difference in sonic landscape.  Suicide’s trademark high hat eighths and plainly styled kick drum part come through in the electronics rather than the mass of blackness.  Again Berdan’s vocals sit in a singular snappy place, but the guitar begins with soaring, distorted chords before jumping into a thrashing, fast-paced melody at the chorus.

“The Lost” pushes the band out of their comfort zone even further.  Between the fun bass drum pattern and the bright major chords, this track achieves a near-wholesome tonality.  The brightness is fleeting as brutality is due to return with the second half of the album, but having this visceral, almost catchy moment really shows an ability to change up the sound and Berdan keeps up the cohesion by maintaining his trademark vocal delivery.  Right out of the gate, the band develops their sound with three contrasting tracks.

The dense intensity then makes an immediate return with unrelenting, pounding activity.  Perhaps it’s because my experience with metal is a bit lax, but “The Light at the End (Cause)” and its counterpart “Effect” are the only spots on the record where I can actually make out the lyrics.  Nonetheless, the group paints a bit of a narrative element to the work.  With the title “Wake in Fright,” it’s fair to assume nightmares and “Cause,” after hearkening back to the mammoth sound of the first track, jumps into some tortured spoken word in the spacey, out of time outro to this track.  Speaking about flesh and blood and pain, Berdan utters the phrase: “I’m not going anywhere because I’ve got nowhere to go.”  He’s feeling some unescapable mental pain.  Perhaps his vocals on other tracks are simply a metaphor for what he’s going through and the final “effect” of all this pain is a rather bleak yearning for death: “as I die all is right with the world.”  Obviously it’s a dark and sad piece, but it is interesting to hear such a stark vocal struggle, then more understandable analysis of all the pain being presented.

Besides the finale of “Effect,” the second half of the record somehow manages to again turn up the brutality.  “The Killing of America” is the most straightforward in terms of structure.  The throwback guitar intro and the flashy solo combine with the robotic background to give a nice glance at the band’s influences and what they’ve done with them.  Next, the band shows their uncanny ability to combine the massive and the quick at its most extreme with “Bootlicker”.  The synth sounds here are so deep yet the whole mass of sound almost bounces with the blistering tempo.  Also, this track rearranges the hierarchy of sound a bit.  The snare drum—of all things—seems to come into the foreground and Berdan’s vocals are moved into the instrumental pallet.  It would be interesting to see more of this in the future, especially considering the almost rhythmic function of voice on pieces of this album.  The drama of this track carries over to “Night of Fear,” but this track drones at a much more mellow energy level to make the transition into the static spoken word of the final track.

Wake in Fright is an exhilarating ride with a great degree of contrast between songs and a depressing, but moving lyrical impact.  On their next project, I hope to see some expansion.  The band could do more to make their lyrics speak throughout and perhaps craft a more complex narrative.  Also, they could try their hand at some longer song lengths; those droney numbers could easily last ten minutes.  Nonetheless, this project is comprised of some great tunes and showcases a hardcore band on the cusp of their prime.

-Donovan Burtan

7.5/10

Listen/Purchase Here: https://unifuckingform.bandcamp.com/

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