Sicilian underground punk institution Uzeda may not be a household name, partly due to the almost comet-pass frequency of their album releases (on average one every 9.2 years), but when you’ve been in the business for over 30 years and count Steve Albini as both a friend and your go-to producer, who cares? With those kind of credentials you can also (just about) get away with calling your album Quocumque Jeceris Stabit.
Pub-quizzers will immediately tell you that the latin motto (which also adorns the Isle Of Man coat of arms, just below the triskelion), approximately translates as ‘whichever way you throw it, it will stand’. An apt affiche to a band that, in the thirteen years since their last album Stella, has parted ways with Touch & Go Records, witnessed the passing of friends, family, collaborators and business partners. While Stella was itself hailed as a comeback album in 2006, trailing 8 years after Different Section Wires, Uzeda can be forgiven for this even longer pause. Both in context and standing on its own, QJS is defiant, resilient, even exhilarating at times. It is a solid, battle-worn statement of intent against ageing and nothing, not even time it seems, can put Uzeda down.
As ever, Albini’s presence is felt throughout. A bit of warming analogue crackle here and some vibrating curls of radioactive swarf there, nobody else does concrete crunch quite like him. Opener ‘Soap‘ crashes in spectacularly, with Giovanna Cacciola’s waspish vocals buoyed by a rolling bass line that conducts subtle dynamic shifts. It’s 1993 all over, drenched in creosote licks and sweat. ‘Deep Blue Sea‘ extends the tension as Cacciola rides a vocal zip wire between sweet, silky tones and sudden stratospheric screams, while husband and fellow Bellini member, Agostino Tilotta, throws blistering guitar textures across the divide.
Unlike their previous releases, there seems to be a newfound cohesion to the melodic and chaotic aesthetics that Uzeda employ. There were always plenty of barbs to snag yourself on, but very few hooks. This new alignment is heard most in the haunting torment of ‘Mistakes‘ and the ache of the more subdued, yet no less harrowing ‘Red‘. Both songs are raw testaments to our gnawing, self-destructive instincts. Elsewhere, ‘Blind‘, full of loathing and instability, blusters with the rhythmic push-pull of bassist Raffaele Gulisano and drummer Davide Oliveri. We’re thrown into the sparring match, blow by bloody blow, before collapsing into a decaying cymbal crash. The closing track ‘The Preacher’s Tale‘ wraps itself around Olivieri’s furious off-kilter battery, while visceral guitar underpins both the beautiful melody and wailing despair implied in Cacciola’s voice. The song hits a fake climax before ebbing away, “I’m scared”, sighs Cacciola finally. It seems our time is up after a challenging, but curiously engaging 31 minutes.
Even without Albini’s magic iron filing sprinklings, Uzeda’s electrifying, intense sound, is bigger than ever. The mark of a band reinvigorated and more determined than ever.
‘Quocumque Jeceris Stabit’ is released on 12th July, via Temporary Residence Ltd.