On An Exacting Punishment, URANIUM delivers a monolith of cacophony of such density that it’s only paralleled by its namesake element.

Release date: January 27, 2022 | Sentient Ruin | Bandcamp

I could write a lengthy opening paragraph about a well-known chemical element and the negative effects in can cause to a human body when ingested and absorbed in too high doses, and mirror it to An Exacting Punishment, the debut full-length from American one-man entity URANIUM. Instead of going into detail with metaphors and parables about how these vessels of equal creation and destruction of the same name resemble each other, I’ll just leave you to make those mental comparisons with this heavy innuendo.

I was familiar with URANIUM prior to catching the new album, namely through their previous compilation EP Wormboiler, and the batch of one-off tracks done under the act’s previous moniker Disfigure the Face of Man. Looking back to the early manifestations and following the artist’s musical path, you can clearly make out how the groundwork on what URANIUM was later built on was well-established from early on. Not to get too caught up in the past, I will add that especially with experimental acts such as this one, it’s always been an integral point of interest to me to be able to hear the development and trace the current state of ruckus backwards, and in case that’s something potentially worth your while, I’d recommend you to take an all-encompassing journey through URANIUM‘s essence from its hazy early days up to the present, to be able to appreciate An Exacting Punishment the way you should.

That is not to say that An Exacting Punishment wouldn’t stand on its own feet – as it certianly fucking does – but the additional aspect of realising the evolution behind it further emphasises its impact. When I first hit play on it, it was as if I was suddenly cloaked in a black sludge of terror and dread while being nailed to my seat in a vile yet perversely delightful manner. One constant found on the album is its immense density and vortex-esque appeal, which dictates the overall tone throughout its duration just shy of forty minutes. Sure, there’s brief moments of air here and there, but even though you might be able to catch your breath during them, know that this air is still toxic, and only fleeting.

“Trinity” opens up the stream of cacophony without warning, and you’re immediately pulled into URANIUM‘s firm grasp by means of buzzing noise, a wonderfully disjointed rhythm, and a haunting melody that makes everything all the more ponderous and hard-hitting. It seems as if time is a lost notion, as URANIUM weaves a spherical tapestry the listener is left to explore all alone, each moment being a perpetual one. Changes are introduced along the way, some more subtle than the others, with sparse vocals fading in and out while the ambiance remains the same: suffocating as all hell. The aural asphyxiation only strengthens on “Prison of Flesh”, the towering second track found on racket resembling some kind of a malfunctioning industrial unit put through a train of distortion pedals. Growing slowly but surely, the song gathers mass around its core constantly, throwing the listener around to whatever tonal corners it sees fit, before reaching its boiling point and suddenly evaporates, leaving you to ponder the mess it left behind in total silence.

“Gnawing at the Bones” is an intermission of sorts, being a six-minute droning piece of unnerving noises and immaculate tension. The shrieking synths provide an exceedingly callous and cold vibe to the already rather heartless and metallic mood, setting the stage for the last two tracks of the album, also to be known as the pinnacle of An Exacting Punishment. The titular song is a doom-paced epic that really forces you into wanting to fuck shit up, so to speak, as it draws from the concept of punishment otherwise also explored on the album in a unique manner, being an excruciating effort that sounds the way it’d feel like to have drops of acid being dribbled around your body for ten minutes for no apparent reason. It’s corrosive and very much hurtful, just what the doctor ordered.

It’d be too easy to make a joke about the fact that an album like this ends with a track titled “No Light” – as the notion is nothing if not present all the time – but one more round doesn’t hurt, I guess. The closer takes its time to unfold, building on crackling noises and fuzzed out sub-booms and advancing to a pulsating mid-tempo beating that, again, seems to last forever. Monotony, however, is out of the question, as it is with the other tracks, as URANIUM clearly understands the need and value of detailwork within the confines of this type of music, regardless of how accustomed or jarring it is by design. Ending in a surprisingly hectic flood of every-single-fucking-thing-at-once, An Exacting Punishment comes to its close, having drained its listener entirely. Whether you want to understand that as a positive or negative effect is up to you entirely.

An Exacting Punishment abides to its title, as URANIUM has produced an album that is pure wrath and torment embodied by means of sound. It is rough as fuck, but also rewarding in the end, especially after numerous listens and the ensuing nuance-oriented discoveries that together make the album a very fullfilling entirety. Even though its reasonable by length, the effort is still a lot to withstand, and requires a mindset of its own to be properly enjoyed. However, seeing it’s put out by Sentient Ruin, could you really expect anything else than utter annihilation? That’s what I thought.

Leave a Reply