Manchester, England. Home to some of the most irritating things on Earth: not one, but two hideous football teams, an annoying soap opera, and…Oasis. The least said about them, the better as far as I’m concerned. But now, the city has something of which it can be proud. And that something happens to be an extreme metal band called Wode. For the avoidance of doubt, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I deride Manchester because it’s a great city. But Wode has definitely caught my attention, and for all the right reasons.
I wish I’d known about this band earlier too because, as I do my research, it becomes clear that the quartet has been in existence for over a decade, releasing two previous full-length albums before this one, entitled ‘Burn In Many Mirrors’. Where have I been? No point dwelling on the past and what might have been, because I’m here now and that’s all that matters.
Trying to define the music that Wode creates is like trying to find nice things to say about Manchester United; it’s almost impossible. What you get is a mixture of a whole plethora of extreme metal styles, plus a few less extreme ones as well. It should end up being a mess but somehow, the final product is incredibly good. Cohesive, powerful, entertaining, and intriguing are just some of the adjectives I’d throw into the mix when talking about Wode’s output on ‘Burn In Many Mirrors’. But, to be more helpful, I’d say that the foundations and main structure of the band are comprised of black metal, both the raw frosty kind and the more melodically-charged kind. From there, Wode then add death metal, thrash, classic ‘old school’ heavy metal, and more into the cauldron. As I said, it probably shouldn’t sound this good, but it does.
‘Burn In Many Mirrors’ has a run-time of less than 40 minutes, spread across six tracks. And I think that this brevity creates a greater potency overall; it’s a succinct, focused attack that doesn’t allow proceedings to become too bloated or overblown.
The opening to ‘Lunar Madness’ is insane, covering a large number of influences in such a short space of time. In fact, the ground covered within the six-minute composition overall is equally impressive. The initial stages are cold and frosty thanks to staccato riffing and bold, atmospheric synths. The drumming is great, full of variation and clean as a whistle. Within moments, the composition then shifts from a classic metal verve, to thrash intensity that’s all-out attack initially before settling into a steady, catchy groove. The song that darts around like a startled rodent, so by the time you get a handle on what Wode are doing, they’ve moved on to something new. It creates an intense listening experience but it is held together expertly by some understated melody and a strong rhythmic spine. M Czerwoniuk’s gruff vocals are full of venom, slightly buried in the mix to give it a haunting feel, thereby topping off a whirlwind track perfectly.
Up next is my favourite track, ‘Serpent’s Coil’. The melody that emerges in the early stages is the strongest on the album, principally because it is so overt, calling to mind the best moments of Dissection, blended with a NWOBMH groove. I’d have loved it to remain for longer, and it does return at points but as is the Wode way, they have many other horizons to explore. Once again the core is black metal but swirling thrash leads encroach, but there’s a stronger classic metal verve overall, a greater sense of, dare I say it, fun.
The sounds of flames overlaid by more cosmic-sounding synths usher in ‘Fire In The Hills’. The ensuing guitar-led section is eerie in the extreme, full of foreboding darkness. I love it. From there we’re treated to more of a black ‘n’ roll track with an all-out nasty black metal underbelly, one where the drumming of T Horrocks and bass of E. Troup stand out in particular. As far as the guitars and synths are concerned, it’s more difficult to offer credit accurately because these duties are apparently shared between M. Czerwoniuk, D. Shaw and T. Horrocks. They’re clearly a multi-talented bunch and it shows.
There may only be six tracks on ‘Burn In Many Mirrors’ but given there’s so much going on in each, a detailed summary of each would be an exercise in futility. Instead, let me assure you that if the preceding few paragraphs have tickled your fancy, the remainder of the album continues in a similar fashion with no let up in terms of quality or ambition.
‘Sulphuric Glow’ is a punchier affair, full of groove and layered with synths to great effect. ‘Vanish Beneath’ explores darker atmospheres within an extended instrumental intro before offering some of the most immediate riffs on the album. And finally, ‘Streams Of Rapture (I, II, III)’ starts off by exploring synth-led instrumental theatrics and atmospherics creating a bleak, dystopian feel. From there, it’s a further seven or so minutes of everything Wode do well. One minute they are bludgeoning me with a savage black metal attack, the next there’s a more measured stomp. And the whole thing is laced with drama, ending in a fittingly catchy, classic metal-inspired manner but not without the spectre of darkness looming nearby.
I’ve been a little blindsided by Wode and I love that. Being presented with something that you weren’t expecting is always fun. The fact that these four musicians can do this without sounding contrived, messy, or lacking cohesion is an impressive feat. Whatever musical direction Wode take us, it feels and sounds right. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, but for me, ‘Burn In Many Mirrors’ offers a fresh and exciting listening experience, one that challenges and entertains in equal measure. Do yourselves a favour and give this one a listen.