Residing somewhere between the pummeling old guard and the all encompassing sound of modern black metal is Wode‘s Self-Titled debut full length. Its elegant ugliness and breathtaking command of the nearly hour long runtime suggests a band much deeper than six years into its prime. Wode play like master technicians, bending and molding the harsh bleakness that is indicative of the grimmest black metal in ways that are refreshing to say the least. But it’s the way the band plays with the overall feeling here — hope in one song, despondency in the next — that really makes the album shine. It’s tough to pin down any one influence but suffice it to say, awe inspiring moments surface in droves.
The UK is literally overflowing with quality black metal bands, Caïna and Winterfylleth are but a couple that come to mind. Formed in 2010, Wode released a three track demo five years ago and then, nothing until now. Not your usual time span between releases. All too often market saturation reigns supreme and more times than not it comes at the expense of quality. Not so here, this long gap has exponentially paid off. The band’s timing during the more challenging and dense verses is spot on. Their collective songwriting is much better and tighter, allowing them to fully showcase what their demo only hinted at.
“Trails of Smoke” makes a reappearance here, as it should have. It was the catchiest track of the three offered on their demo and just as before, it is once again. The guitar work has a melodic call and response effect with the vocals that is just as memorable as before, this melody sinks in slowly but by track’s end it is unforgettable. Also, the song as a whole sounds better this time around, fuller and with more bite. Black metal at its best is viciously feral, barrages of blast beats and ridiculously fast tremolo picking are jarring but welcome. The band take full advantage of this approach throughout but heighten the experience with their wise choices of other elements. The heavy atmosphere of forlorn doom anchors “Plagues of Insomnia” and later on “Black Belief” the brutality of early 90’s death metal creeps in for the proverbial gut punch.
When retracing history, the arc of black metal began with shades of traditional metal and punk, rebelling against the status quo. Then, as if tired with that, any pleasantries gave way to relentless fury that in the right hands had an overtly dangerous feel which appealed to those seeking something that very few could fathom. As the genre ages and splinters its boundaries have been broadened and today’s era can be just as menacing but can also be emotionally involving. This full length is an extremely successful one because it does both extremely well. But also because this effort is not a carbon copy of anything, Wode very effectively take what has come before as well as what is happening now and expand upon all of it.
On their self-titled debut, Wode come back from a five year gap better and stronger than ever. They’ve grown exponentially and prove it by releasing a monumental piece of black metal that will be tough to top this year. Already with a play count higher than nearly anything in the last three months, each successive spin is as exciting as the first. The albums multiple layers don’t give up their wares easily and the longer you search the more you’ll find. Highly recommended.