UK black metal has always been a beast unto itself. From the earliest days of Venom and Witchfynde there’s been an anarchic spirit to the British bands that some of their contemporaries (particularly the po-faced Norwegian scene) lacked. Whether it’s the gentleman’s club Satanism of Akercocke, the blackened-grind insanity of Anaal Nathrakh or the Hammer horror theatrics of Cradle of Filth (you know you love it) they all have a punkish individualism to them which makes them stick out. With the release of their new album we can now add Wode’s name to that list.
Now in their second decade, the band have always emphasised the metal aspect of black metal. While many bands in the genre now experiment with influences from shoegaze, prog and post-punk, Wode lace their sound with the heft of death metal and the melodicism and songwriting swagger of trad metal to create an irresistible cocktail of noise. Along with the likes of Dawn Ray’d, Fen and Underdark, they are one of the UK’s leading (dead) lights.
Burn in Many Mirrors is the band’s third album overall, and first for the acclaimed 20 Buck Spin label, and it finds them on absolutely blistering form. In the four years since their second album, the savage Servants Of The Countercosmos, the band have continued to refine their sound to its purest elements and have delivered an album that not only hits hard but lodges itself firmly in your brain with some of the catchiest extreme metal riffs out there.
Opener ‘Lunar Madness’ sets the tone in brutal fashion, mixing breakneck thrash with moments of slower, grinding menace. It’s held together by some stunning guitar work that recalls Trey Azogthoth at his best, as well as M. Czerwoniuk’s powerful vocals. Czerwoniuk is very much the band’s secret weapon, his expressive growl giving the music a heightened sense of drama in a genre where vocalists can seem monotone (albeit, demonically so). ‘Serpents Coil’ adds in chunks of Gothenburg-style duelling guitars before going full Iron Maiden in the mid-section. It also works as a brilliant showcase for the work of relative new boy Dan Shaw, making his move up from side-project Aggressive Protector to the big leagues. The influence of 80’s metal on this album is profound, with the melodicism of the NWOBM rubbing up against Venom and Reign in Blood-era Slayer. ‘Sulphuric Glow’ is unadulterated blackened thrash, while the intro to ‘Vanish Beneath’ sounds like it was lifted straight out of South of Heaven. That’s not to say the music is derivative, far from it, the band have a strong enough instinct for songwriting that they channel their influences into something fresh.
Nowhere is this more clear than on the three-part, nine-minute, album closer ‘Streams of Rapture (I,II & III)’. Starting off with a dungeon synth intro, it quickly descends into muscular, hyper-speed riffing, intersected by doomier moments, and ending with a stadium sized guitar solo.
Wode proudly continue the UKBM tradition of non-conformity. While the band wear their influences proudly on a sleeveless denim shirt, they are not swayed by any of the current trends in the genre, instead choosing to create a sound that is wholly their own.
Burn in Many Mirrors is out today via 20 Buck Spin and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader