WODE – Burn in Many Mirrors (2021)REVIEW

When the passions are not controlled, the result is terrible, and the birth of countless monstrosities, which literally throng the atmosphere and continually impede the spiritual and earthy progress of the offenders, is one of the sad trials of misguided humanity.” Dr. L.W. de Laurence, The Mystic Test Book of the Hindu Occult Chambers

Born from general interest in black metal and evolved since by way of their naturally collaborative process, the intermingling interests of Manchester, England-based quartet Wode feature as notable admixture on their third full-length album ‘Burn in Many Mirrors‘. As unceremonious as it may sound, the major appeal of these fellowes work in this band (and their related projects) is ultimately taste, an ability to hone in on the most effective aspects of various metallic craft and whirl something deeply entertaining unto their own; Though it may not read as desperately cerebral as your average high artisanal black metal as a result, the quality of their craft remains intricate as it is accessible. This third record is their most varietal work to date, pulling input from a “new” configuration and yielding an impassioned allegro moderato thrust of traditional-yet-extreme blackened death/heavy metal experience.

Wode formed as a duo in the Manchester sprawl not long before their celebrated demo (‘Demo MMXI‘, 2011) would release, having built their ranks up to a quartet at the time. Their work was typically lumped into the middle ground between burgeoning atmospheric black metal in the U.K. and less so the black n’ roll guided punk of that era. Since they were from the same area and playing a style not too distant from the early days of Winterfylleth, we can’t necessarily blame early 2010’s reviews for seeing runes, hearing a rolling bout of triumphant atmospheric black metal and thinking of ‘The Mercian Sphere’ nearby. However deaf to nuance that take might appear today it does partially guide us towards the style found on Wode‘s debut (‘Wode‘, 2016) , which’d been long-awaited from the (then) trio. Their largely celebrated debut release featured drummer/co-vocalist T.H. likewise providing guitars. In some sense that first album was ‘making good’ on their best ideas from the half-decade prior spent ironing out the practical aspects of their own personal style, which does seem to have been a moving target in hindsight. The key paradigm shift comes a year later with what is less a follow-up and more a leap into several years of revised ideals and I’d assume a backlog of songs. Wode‘s second full-length (‘Servants of the Counter Cosmos‘, 2017) found the band capitalizing upon their newfound notoriety partnering with Avantgarde Music for a larger release and sourcing additional guitar work from K. Sveinsson (A Middle Sex). In many ways that second album was the evolved heart of the project and a template for the path forward, amping their melodic black/death metal influences and structuring pieces with traditional heavy metal influences to better control and punctuate the stream of events on offer. That same year they’d add D. Shaw the former guitarist from Pine Barrens, a Manchester area punk influenced black metal band that’d sort of arisen from a similar circle back in 2011, to the line-up whom I believe joins the band for this release as well as in Aggressive Perfector. Where do they go from a point of fairly unique stylistic voice?

While the third Wode album does build upon the black/death style of ‘Servants of the Counter Cosmos’ with heavy metal influences, the major goal seems to be a refinement of songcraft first and foremost, tightening the moments that leave a mark and further siphoning out the residue of atmospheric black metal. In this sense we find a similarly developed running order and the requisite 9+ minute smoker that serves as a sort of “show your work” moment for the album; The equivalency of the prior album’s inspired epic “Chaospell” is the three part album closer “Streams of Rapture” this time around. They’ve broken up the droning-dry quality of certain past work via classic heavy metal influences largely pulling decidedly 80’s riffing from the non-thrashed spectrum of NWOBHM to early speed metal, lending an anthemic quality beyond the early Dissection-esque movements of that prior album. I’m sure there is a more delicate way to put it but, I’d say after the release of their speed/thrash metal project, Aggressive Perfector‘s debut ‘Havoc at the Midnight Hour‘ (2019) it feels like Wode have generally thrown their balls on the table here. The result isn’t vulgarity though, but certainly a raw crossing of aggression and sophisticated edict at the very least. The six track and roughly forty minute run that develops with this heavier hammered edge in mind is ideal for a band who tend to express best through a multi-angled textural reap rather than a stylistically specific venture — A speed metal riff, a melodic black/death metal attack, a jogging death n’ roll mid-tempo map and nigh punkish breaks weave together their storm of various directional modules into a cavernously rasping extreme heavy metal album. Though this sounds like a loose meat extreme metal sandwich in theory, the ‘Burn in Many Mirrors’ experience is remarkably cohesive sans any perceptible filler.

The Venenum-does-“Left Hand Path” opening grandstand of “Lunar Mantra” is the sort of piece you’d expect to overwhelm and outmode the rest of a running order, yet the tracklist sustains this level of enthusiasm, variety, and intricacy throughout to the point of eventually surpassing that original statement. “Serpent’s Coil” presents this rightful evolution beyond ‘The Somberlain’ where theatric heavy metal of the mid-80’s meets the classically edged melodic black/death metal sprawl of suburban Sweden circa the mid-90’s yet they’ve kept the heavy rock beats as the foundation of the experience and excised the ambitious teenaged Scandinavian death metal anxiety from the tempo — Instead opting for something closer to Tribulation‘s prog-rocking ‘The Formulas of Death’ and its (then) signature battery. We get a shade deeper into speed metal influenced action as “Fire in the Hills” begins yet the song soon quickly winds itself up into what I’d describe as ‘Sweven’-esque meandering guitar runs, chanting verses, and I suppose this reads more as touch of generations-mutated Necrophobic than anything else as it all comes together. Side A is ultimately interchangeable with its counterpart in terms of energy and cohabitation of stylistic marks yet there is a sense of progression from unforeseen cataclysm to an apex of ruin when the full order presents itself in a single sitting.

Over on Side B “Sulphuric Glow” naturally reprises the energy of “Lunar Madness” to some degree but this time striking into the death metal side of the band from a different angle, pushing into their evil heavy metal vibe, keyboards and all, beyond a minute into the song. At this point I’d heard a lot of the best that modern-but-classicist extreme and traditional heavy metal has to offer today funneling into Wode‘s advance. The arrangements themselves aren’t too spiritually distant from the most recent Transilvania record, though clearly more interested in surrealistic black/death metal intensity a la Venenum than traditional heavy metal hooks. “Sulphuric Glow” pulls us fully into their own realm, a major point of characterization for the album as a whole. That said, the main event to likely pull the most inspiration from when all is said and done is probably the aforementioned three part “Streams of Rapture”, not only for the gamut that it rips through but for the contrast it provides with consideration for their similarly extended compositions on earlier albums. The 8-9 minute piece had been more common on ‘Wode’ and eased upon beyond that point. Since we are being served what is various admixture of black/death metal and traditional heavy metal in this instance every moment must count for something yet I’m not sure this last piece fully lands; There are many high points in the path towards “Streams of Rapture” but the mind does build an expectation of a tragic peak, a burst into the aether realm rather than a ride into the sunset. Yet that is where we end up, a grandiose black/death metal spell cast at the height of an ornate obsidian tower and a “roll credits” feeling beyond. The full listen does suffer from the lack of a true climax in this sense but it plays better on repeat for the sake of an easy circle back to the opening number.

So, on this rare occasion I’ve actually received my pre-ordered vinyl copy of this record and already have the actual physical product in hand during the review process, allowing some appreciation for the full layout and art design; Most notably the front and back cover paintings by Santiago Caruso whom is best known for his work on Stargazer‘s ‘A Merging to the Boundless’ and Pentagram‘s (Chile) underrated masterpiece ‘The Malefice’. The modifications made to the two original pieces make for neater squared images and the results are still generally striking though I think once I’d seen the original of the back cover art I’d almost just wanted a huge version of that. The actual lyric sheet is a beautiful thing, neat and readable with art that relates to the artwork/design presented online. It lends the experience some considerable personality when all points of graphic design support one another and the aesthetic is sound throughout. In fact this speaks to the general level of detailed consideration applied to the entire work, inside and out ‘Burn in Many Mirrors’ is entirely slick, only offering rough edges when those classic heavy metal moments peek through the roaring miasma of its greater form. They could push even harder into heavy/speed metal territory and still hold my attention just as rapt. Though it doesn’t plague me with any personal obsession just yet, there hasn’t yet been a moment when I’d either dreaded or denied the impulse to jump back into this record countless times and as such, it is an easy recommendation. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Burn in Many Mirrors
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:April 2nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal,
Blackened Death/Speed Metal

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