Album Review: Uncertainty Principle – Sonic Terror

Uncertainty Principle

Album Review: Uncertainty Principle - Sonic Terror
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

I know what you’re thinking: C’mon Dan, Uncertainty Principle released Sonic Terror twenty-years-ago.

It’s very true that SP White did indeed release the album back in 2000, as the band’s second record, but this recrafting should be considered as much a compilation of the band’s early work as a fully-fledged release.

The original tracks of Sonic Terror 2000 form the first four tracks on this new version, but rather than slap them on in their previous form, Uncertainty Principle have reconstituted them into a more accessible listen.

Each now have considerably reduced running times, though the essence of each song remains. The huge-in-scope Pain Hate Fear sets the stall out with a hiss of background static and a disembodied scream before giving way to a massive, sustained chord. When the music does progress, it does so at a funereal tempo that, despite the glacial speed, feels unstoppable.

Album Review: Uncertainty Principle

Both Dirge and Hatred seem commercial in comparison, with their faster pacing and clean guitar repeating a single riff, the music ebbs and flows, lifted by transcendental voices before dropping into the hum of fuzz-filled reverb and overdriven strings.

Included alongside the reworkings of Sonic Terror, Uncertainty Principle have revisited some of their other early recordings. Three tracks from 2002’s Grand Unification of Energy show there was a clear and discernible change in the band’s sound in the two intervening years. The title track of that album sounds much fatter and cleaner, pushing the drums to the fore but maintaining the underlying drone. It’s strange to say that these tracks feel more structured and less jammed than the earlier tunes, with The Chandrasekhar Limit even featuring a piano in it’s opening section.

The final three songs on this version of Sonic Terror are from 2003’s The Litany Against Fear album and take the same stance as the rest of the record: reworkings and edits of previous much-longer releases.

It feels as though these tracks are amalgams of the ideas and sounds of what has been heard before. Using the dissonant soundscapes of the earlier work and combining that with the structure of the latter allows Uncertainty Principle to develop the use of restraint and dirge and juxtapose it against the crushingly heavy and unrelentingly bleak. During Fedaykin there is brief respite in the form of the occasional guitar-fill to disrupt the drone.

If you are unfamiliar with Drone as a musical form it can sound like someone “vacuuming a carpet” (thanks, Mrs B.) but if you manage to stick with it and can isolate and focus your listening experience it can be a transcendental experience. I’ve stood in a few foggy rooms listening to Sunn’s ear-smashing feedback and would not be able to explain completely why I keep going back.

One fairly made point about this kind of music is the lack of a resolution; that it feels as though it could just continue ad infinitum which, in a way, it could. Uncertainty Principle do not leave the listener hanging at the close of Sonic Terror as The Golden Path’s fat sounding dissonant fuzz seeks to offer a resolution of cosmic voices and ethereal feedback.

Even in its more ‘commercial’ format Sonic Terror is a challenging listen, but one that hopefully leads a few back to those original epic drones.

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