Review: Boris & Uniform ‘Bright New Disease’

The fusing of Japan’s premier noiseniks Boris and the stark, corrosive violence of Uniform makes both perfect sense and no sense at all. With the likes of The Body, Sunn O))) and Ian Astbury under their collaborative belts, both bands have shown that they can deliver something truly transcendent when they have other minds to pit themselves against; on the other hand, Uniform have a coldly savage edge that seems at odds with Boris, who even at their most ferocious have fire and light at their core. Bright New Disease manages this dilemma by shifting focus between the two, allowing each their own moments of control while finding enough common ground that it never feels like a glorified collaboration release.

Boris & Uniform 'Bright New Disease' Artwork
Boris & Uniform ‘Bright New Disease’ Artwork

Of the opening trio of cuts, it’s Weaponized Grief that is unmistakeably Uniform’s work. A short, pointed barrage of industrialised noise, feedback and undiluted vitriol, Michael Berdan venting his spleen across two minutes of sheer hell, it’s a glorious listen. Bookended as it is by lead single You Are The Beginning, a Heavy Rocks-esque chuggathon that sees Berdan sneering across one blistering lead from Wata after another, and No, a furious nod to Boris’ mid-pandemic hardcore hit in spirit, tempo and sheer metallic fury, it does feels like there is an attempt to keep a clear delineation between both bands’ respective musical spheres.

From The Look Is A Flame onwards, those two disparate worlds begin to overlap. Backed up by Randall Dunn’s subtly imposing synths, Uniform bring an atmosphere of sheer despair to the table, croons and howls layered over shards of noise that burrow and hook under the skin as Boris lend a woozy, dreamlike tone and keening falsetto wails. Anyone who’s ever watched Nobuo Nakagawa’s fever-dream vision of hell Jigoku will appreciate what comes next, borrowing not only the title but also its air of psychedelic, hopeless dread, while Narcotic Shadow brings Boris and Uniform to a true stylistic collision. Its dystopian beats and steady marching tempo are insidious stuff, but Boris bring a euphoric, melodic energy that transforms it into a work of world’s-end synthpop madness that is undoubtedly what this collaboration promised and delivered.

an experiment in genre manipulation and aural terrorism…

Although one of the album’s briefest contributions, A Man From The Earth is likely the most jarring moment here, the sunny pop harmonies invading an otherwise inhospitable landscape like a Labrador puppy running through a minefield, but at least Endless Death Agony lives up to its name and cleanses the palate with noisy, thrashy energy. With Not Surprised, Boris and Uniform’s Inferno-esque journey finally bottoms out and does so with such agonised, dissonant flair that if Khanate hadn’t stolen their thunder just a few weeks before, this might have been some of the most harrowing sounds to have dropped in 2023. Deafeningly loud and caked in bile, this is both bands at their nastiest and it’s just begging for live treatment somewhere along the line.

All in, Bright New Disease is something of an oddity amongst oddities. It’s almost teasingly brief and the amount of ground that is covered mean that some ideas are ultimately abandoned before they can take effect, but as an experiment in genre manipulation and aural terrorism, it’s a resounding success. It might need a few spins to fully pick apart everything that’s at play here but with Boris and Uniform, that’s a treat and not a chore.

Label: Sacred Bones Records
Boris: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
Uniform: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Dave Bowes