Boris and Uniform might have seemed like a strange pairing when they teamed up for a US tour back in 2019. Sure, both bands harness the power of big, blown-out riffs, but Boris’s rock heroics, lysergic sprawl, and monolithic sludge summon a different energy than Uniform’s mechanized bombardments and frenzied assaults. However, when Boris invited Uniform to team up on a reimagined version of their classic “Akuma no Uta” as a part of their encore, there was obvious chemistry between the artists. The idea of a collaborative album came up, and the bands spent the next year swapping song ideas and recordings from their home-base studios until Boris and Uniform had an album that captured the fearless exploration and unbridled power of their live performances. The Boris and Uniform collaborative album Bright New Disease (Sacred Bones Records) will be out on June 16, 2023.
Bright New Disease opens with the collaboration’s first single, “You Are the Beginning,” a ferocious thrash-inflected banger concocted by the Boris camp. It was the first piece the band composed during the initial day of their studio session in July 2020. As the title insinuates, the song was written with the idea that it would open the album and, hopefully, open a show one day too. “At that time, we didn’t know when we would be able to resume concerts,” says Boris’ Atsuo, “and our wish became the song directly.” The uncertainty and anxiety of the early months of the pandemic fuelled Bright New Disease, and “You Are the Beginning” sets the stage by stampeding out of the gate with vicious palm-muted riffs, snarling vocals, and dual drum bombardments courtesy of Atsuo and Uniform drummer Mike Sharp.
From “You Are the Beginning” onwards, the album continues its relentless assault with “Weaponized Grief,” a fevered mashup of Japanese D-beat and Boredoms’ deliberately mismatched sonic textures. There isn’t a moment to sift through the wreckage before the bands launch into “No,” a deliberate nod to the Japanese hardcore homage of Boris’s 2020 album NO. Respite finally comes with the glacial amplifier worship of “The Look is a Flame,” a Boris-penned song meant to evoke light and salvation over gloom and cruelty. Further heightened by the cosmic synth work of Randall Dunn and the groaning bass of Steve Moore, it retains the ominous timbre of the album while also hinting at the possibility of redemption.
The album’s timbral palette continues to broaden on the latter half of Bright New Disease, such as on the standout track “Narcotic Shadow.” Constructed around Berdan’s modular synth arpeggios, aided by Boris’s dark wave / new romantic-inspired vocals, and abetted by Ben Greenberg’s warped studio manipulations, the song offers up a sleazy and woozy counterpoint to the unbridled rage of the album’s first half. Similarly, “A Man From the Earth” feels less centered on catharsis and more fixated on a gritty, buried-in-the-red spin on David Bowie’s glam years. But these deviations only serve to make the album closer and second single, “Not Surprised,” all the more bleak, anguished, and harrowing. The amps are on ten; the sparring drums collide and collapse; everything vibrates to the same gut-liquifying frequency. Much like the album opener, “Not Surprised” was written with its position on a setlist in mind. “I thought it would be appropriate for the last song on the album,” says Atsuo, “and I imagined that it would be just as cathartic if we played it at the end of the show as well.”