It’s been a long time since the last album from Code, with six years passing since the release of Mut. That album represented a significant shift in sound for a band who already had a reputation for changing with each release. Whilst previous albums always had a progressive air to them, Mut all-but abandoned black metal for pure prog rock. Considering that the band had previously released one of the best, if vastly under-appreciated, discordant black metal albums in Resplendent Grotesque, it was an unexpected move, and it means the first question about Flyblown Prince is: does it continue in the prog rock direction? Or is this a return to black metal? To which the answer is: both.
To be clear, Flyblown Prince is very much a black metal album, with all the viciousness and hostility that implies. Yet there’s a lot of prog in here too, with the album often bringing to mind Opeth and later-day Enslaved. It has a very dramatic feel to it, brought on largely thanks to the vocals of Wacian, who frequently shifts between growls, cleans, and a slightly overblown, commanding bellow. Likewise, the music itself moves between typical black metal blasting and more expansive, prog rock passages, which gives Flyblown Prince a constant feeling of movement and narrative, that finds a strange place where catharsis is obtained by throwing yourself fully into despair.
There’s a definite excitement to hear Code embracing black metal in this way again, melding it with their prog leanings to produce the most impressive album they have recorded since Resplendent Grotesque back in 2009. It’s certainly something of an acquired taste, with the dramatic nature of the album meaning it’s hard to sink into if you’re not in just the right mood for it. This is especially true of the two longest songs on the album, ‘From the Next Room’ and closer ‘The Mad White Hair’, which both draw greatly from prog’s tradition for storytelling and drama – depending on your mood, they’ll either be your favourite tracks on Flyblown Prince, or the ones you find yourself skipping over to get to the shorter, more direct songs that go straight for the throat.
Considering how many line-up changes Code have had over the years, with only guitarist Aort remaining as an ever-present, it’s impressive that they’ve managed to tap into the same spirit as the one that powered their strongest moment so long ago. Whilst Mut could hardly be described as bad, Flyblown Prince is a welcome return to the style Code are arguably best known for, and should once again see them spoken of in a similar way to the likes of Arcturus and Dødheimsgard, as bands who have taken the sound and spirit of black metal into strange, exciting places.
Flyblown Prince is out via Karisma &Dark Essence Records on June 4th and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain