Seems like it was just over a year ago our editor was extolling the virtues of Wode and their cold take on the classic black metal sound on their debut LP. I listened to it all spring and into the summer, and its precision and adherence to a strict code of freezing precision and brutality left enough of an impression that it made my end of year list for 2016. Now the formula that worked so well is tweaked ever so slightly, that cold warmed by the dark earth of the grave with their second album, Servants of the Countercosmos. The leap from Wode’s 2011 demo to their self titled debut in 2016 was massive, the pure unbroken tremolo lines cutting through the blast beats with a clarity that signaled a growth beyond burying lines behind wall of reverb and noise and calling it an aesthetic choice. Already in opener “Death’s Ediface” you could hear the creep of thrash and death elements coming in with the clean opening, the solo chugging riff at 1:44 before diving into the more traditional black metal elements. “Trails of Smoke” takes a brief detour into death/thrash country early on as well before heading back into the abyss. What I’m saying here is that although we remember the black metal, this moving into different waters is something that’s been there. Check out the riff at 2:30 and you’ll hear a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pantera record.
What Servants of the Countercosmos does is take those elements and move them up to a more prominent role in the songs. By warming up the production and cutting the songs down (four of the six songs are under five minutes) these shifts become even more apparent and give each track a more punched up vibe. “Crypt of Creation” mutates through various twisting lines that echo and repeat until a rocking solo cuts in and the song takes an abrupt turn into death metal territory before heading back into the turmoil. “Celestial Dagger” recalls more of the blackened punk of later Darkthrone with its misplaced stomp, only to slowly roll into a furious tumult of chaos as the song nears its apex.
If there’s a standout for me it comes with the third song, “Temple Interment.” The opening riff immediately invites head banging and never stops as each riff piles one atop the other. You get another solo, a middle break that then builds into a completely different headbanger that could have served as the structure for an entire different song and then a recapitulation of the opening themes, all in the span of four minutes. The title track takes a similar route in accentuating the “metal” instead of the “black.” When the vocals kick in and the guitar lines hits you hard right in the earphones it sounds majestic and slightly offbeat in a way that completely works. “Chaos Spell” serves as the requisite epic track, clocking in at over nine minutes, and as it winds its way through its various movements it takes on some of the qualities that have been defining the black metal movement in the UK with bands like Winterfylleth, Fen, and Wodensthrone. As things reach their end with the acoustic outdo “Undoing” you’re left with the feeling something has happened, and we are changed for it.
We’re slowly getting to the point where limits and definitions for what constitutes black metal are going to be superfluous (if they haven’t already becomes so), where the gasping last breaths of corpse-painted and torch bearing misanthropes will have to look in the cold, dark mirror and admit that yeah, this shit is bringing a message and outlook that can speak to the spirit just as much as tried and TRVE ode to the bloodmists. With Servants to the Countercosmos Wode are taking a different path even as they reach the same destination: a kickass ripping black metal album.