Saturday, 18 January 2014

Uro "Requiem" Lp 2003



I turned 30 last month and despite what everyone has been saying about how important this stage of my life should feel and I did not really give a toss. I am still listening to Antisect, Amebix and Deviated Instinct, I am still as good-looking as ever and, if anything, my general tastes in music are getting better and better. I will give you that my back has seen merrier days because of hard work but that's work and not age-related. However, it still feels strange that I bought this record 10 years ago when it came out. At the time I was getting pretty much all the records from this young Danish label, Plague Bearer, since they never disappointed. Judge for yourself: the first Martyrdöd Lp, the Skitkids demo and Besthöven "Just another warsong" Ep. Pretty neat, right? But nothing moved me quite as much as the Uro Lp. Their first Ep, "Revolutions romantik" from 2002, was fine but, no offense, still sounded a little like a poor man's Paragraf 119 or Vaning 5 and I am pretty sure no one saw the "Requiem" Lp coming, apart from the people lucky enough to witness them live in Copenhagen. The bastards.




This album, and for once I am not even ranting exaggeratedly here, is definitely one of the best anarchopunk record of the 2000's. It has absolutely everything you want from a grand anarcho record: anger, passion, frustration, sadness, the whole range of emotions really. But more importantly, it has something that few bands can claim to ever achieve: it sounds unique. Of course, the addition of a cello does play a crucial role in creating this uniqueness yet it is still not a guarantee that you will create something this brilliant. After all Remains of the Day, Garmonbozia and Öroku, decent bands for sure, don't immediately pop into mind when one thinks of top notch unique bands despite their common use of a cello. But Uro? They used it perfectly to draw a dark, beautiful sonic background that emphasizes the overall hopelessness of the songs. Although I don't see Uro as the prototypical pessimistic crusty band at all, judging from the detailed explanations in English (I am pretty awesome but not really fluent in Danish) their lyrics must be pretty fucking grim and depressing. There is pain, there is frustration but it is also very beautiful and for all the alienation felt, for all the feelings of powerlessness and futlity, you can still hear the beating heart of an angry fighting spirit buried amongst the graveyard of political illusions (I am in an epic mood tonight, so expect some cheesy metaphors and sloppy references to English romanticism). And as past events have shown, the punks of Ungdomshuset have more than a little figthing spirit to show in the face of state oppression, so my guess is that Uro wrote songs they wanted to hear when they felt down (and they probably listened to a lot of Paragraf 119 when the time for action came!).





But enough cheesy bollocks already. Rarely have I seen such a cohesion between the music, the message and the artwork in a record. It just makes so much sense. Uro's music is actually quite difficult to describe. I would argue that they are not as much original as they are unique. Songs are mostly mid-tempo, though you do find faster parts, as "Requiem" is not about crushing power but about setting a dark mood, about painting a peculiar atmosphere. Whereas some bands choose to hammer their anger and frustration through sheer aggression, "Requiem" is a dirge. The riffs are always perfect and the use of the cello is stellar, witty and fits seamlessly in the music as it never sounds forceful. There is a definite sense of epics in Uro's music but, at a time when it often meant aping Tragedy, the band managed to create something of their own, something almost organic but still sounding completely spontaneous and unpretentious, as if things just fell into place on their own. "Requiem" is remarkable and yet trying to describe it in terms of discrete musical elements seems to diminish its wholeness. There is something pagan in the drumming and the riffs that might bring Sedition or Scatha to mind but in a much simpler and less intricate fashion. The vocals certainly carry the music too as the band used the anarcho-certified male/female vocals and reflect anger, sadness and that threatening element. As difficult an album it is to review, I'd say that if you took Scatha, Disaffect, Smartpils, The Mad Are Sane and Paragraf 119 and made them listen to the Cocteau Twins for a month, you would have something quite close. Or not.









The artwork is appropriately dark but doesn't look cheesy or gratuitous. Although the lyrics don't deal with subjects that are particularly original in themselves, much effort seems to have been put into them. Powerless witnesses and participants in the destruction of the environment, the alienation inherent in city life, the punk scene as being a mirror of straight society, the repression getting tighter around our necks, the inescapability of social control... All these niceties are significantly conveyed through Uro's music and art. From what I have heard, Uro certainly made a mark in the Copenhagen punk scene of the early 00's and some people were even crying at their last gig... Of course, the story didn't end there for the members of the band as some of them joined bands like Nuclear Death Terror or Bombregn soon after the demise of Uro (which means something like "unrest" or "turmoil" in Danish if I am not mistaken).



Depressing mandatory cello-driven punk-rock that sounds as good and - bizarrely - fresh to day as it did 10 years ago.

   


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