There is a contradictory spirit about The Long Walk, the third album from New York’s Uniform. The band have upped the ante following the success of previous album Wake in Fright, still rooted in the same cyber-punk sound (and Cyberpunk ethos) core – all pulsing guitars, jack-hammer drums and howls of rage and pain – but whereas before their music was almost overwhelmingly bleak and noisy, there is now a different emotional edge to the music.
If previous records (including their collaboration with The Body) were the sound of flailing, thrashing existential rage and nihilism resulting in inevitable self-destruction, this one is something different. The shadow of dystopia still hangs heavy over Uniform, but The Long Walk sounds, more than ever, like a rejection of bleak eventualities – of seeking the potential for change even as the world goes to hell; of finding hope and redemption even in the most unlikely of places.
Not that this may be evident at first. Much of The Long Walk sounds like a city-levelling monster come to life; the drums its destructive march, the riffs a casual sweep of limbs that topple sky-scrapers, the vocals a post-human cry of hate and defiance. Certainly, the initial rush is very much of destructive energy – Uniform’s music is that of physical catharsis in a post-physical world, and it offers such release in a manner that will be familiar to any fan of old-school hardcore punk. As hurt as it may sound, it is music that wants to make you dance – sure, it’s a violent dance, one that puts you at risk of injury, but it’s dancing nonetheless.
This video isn’t about the end… it’s about “The Walk” to the beginning.
What may be more surprising is just how melodic The Long Walk can be. As on their collaboration with The Body, melody is a large part of what makes The Long Walk such a success – the contrast it provides to the pounding drums and damaged vocals is vital in a musical sense, but it’s even more important in an emotional one. It’s here that the contradictions of The Long Walk come to the fore. It may not always be obvious – due in large part to how over-powering and intense Uniform’s music is – but it’s there, flowing through these songs like blood does a body. This is an album that, for all its pain, is filled with hooks, catchy riffs (most notably on the title track and “Headless Eyes”), and is strangely accessible.
But what makes The Long Walk the best thing Uniform have done so far is that their humanity is more present than ever before. A large part of this is down to the addition of drummer Greg Fox; the use of live drums, rather than relying solely on drum machines, adds an extra sense of life to the way these songs move. They sound looser and freer than is the norm for music so rooted in industrial. Added to this is the lyrical focus, which deals with the paradoxes of religion, prompted by vocalist Michael Brendan’s reconnection with his Catholic upbringing; the title serves as an allegory for his personal journey. As is always the case with Uniform, the lyrics are never fully clear – but just enough words come through to give the overall impression of what is being sung about; though, as final song “Peaceable Kingdom” collapses in to a maelstrom of drums, feedback, and pained shouts during its closing movements, it is clear that whatever conclusions are reached are not always comforting ones.
We dare you to listen to this song “Alone in the Dark”.
And that is, perhaps, what makes The Long Walk so memorable. Sure, there are strong individual songs throughout, such as the stomping industrial riffs of opener “The Walk”; or the driving, relentless forward motion of “Transubstantiation”; or the hardcore punk as imagined by Tetsuo: The Iron Man of “Found”. But what matters is that the overall impression the album creates: of searching despite knowing that what you find may provide no comfort; of staggering on despite how much each steps hurts; of being well aware that there are no easy answers. Industrial might be a genre that is generally associated with a sense of trans-humanism, of leaving the flesh behind and embracing the machine, but The Long Walk is an album that revels in its humanity, as pained, flawed, and contradictory as that spirit is. Or alternatively, you can disregard all of the above, and simply enjoy 37 minutes of riff-heavy, crushing music that will have you ready to face whatever challenges come your way.
The Long Walk Track Listing:
01. The Walk
02. Inhuman Condition
05. Alone in the Dark
06. Headless Eyes
07. Anointing of the Sick
08. Peaceable Kingdom
Run Time: 37:33
Release Date: August 17, 2018
Record Label: Sacred Bones