In light of AMG’s loving jibes at their album art, I have been commissioned to write a review for Uada‘s Devoid of Light after mentioning to him my opinion of it. Having only first heard it in July but with an April release date I had previously consigned it to Things You Might Have Missed (TYMHM) territory but AMG’s contrition dictated this delayed review. Those familiar with our regular features know that only the best of what we missed will receive a TYMHM: know, then, that Devoid of Light is one of the best black metal albums of 2016.
The first thing that struck me about Uada is that although they are categorically black metal, drawing influence from numerous sources, they’re so bright and energetic. There’s a vibrancy here which is missed entirely by so many of their blackened peers. The musicianship is enthusiastic, agile and infectious as neat ideas are incorporated throughout – I’m not supposed to be feel happy when listening to black metal but I invariably am with Devoid of Light.
“Natus Eclipsim” opens with a ripping Dissection riff, preferring groove above atmosphere and falling far closer to melodic black metal than that found in the second wave. This grooviness is maintained going forward, though the mid-paced, darker feel to the lead in the title track strongly evokes Mgła instead. By comparison, “Our Pale Departures” transitions into a furious whirlwind, blast beats and all, which can only be associated with Norway in the early 90s (see: Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone). The breakdown in “S. N. M.” makes for a great moment to head-bang and throw horns while the mini reprieve in “Black Autumn, White Spring” is almost epic in its cleaner chords. Though influences are shuffled throughout to avoid stagnation, great riffs are afforded the time to be great riffs: new melodies aren’t deployed for the sake of change and instead arrive at times which feel natural. Thus, the 10-minute closer does not feel like 10 minutes.
It’s also a boon that Devoid of Light is shockingly brief. In this day and age of cheap music production which often results in Johnny No-Name’s self-released debut double album, Uada chose to write a short and impactful collection of 5 tracks. As soon as the last is over the beginning recalls. It’s addicting in a way that’s uncommon for black metal and there’s nary a scrap of filler occupying the 34 minutes. The best tracks encircle the rest which makes for an incredibly compelling listen as, given the short length, you’re never far from the best material. “Black Autumn, White Spring” concludes the album as the longest and most expansive track, culminating with a frenzied solo. I’m not a fan of fade-to-black type endings so this injection of something new and exciting fits perfectly.
I really don’t have any criticisms musically. Even the production is good, save the industry standard dynamics. Devoid of Light sounds warm and old-school without actually languishing with low production values. Separate instruments and lines are clearly distinguished and there’s reasonably strong bass in a genre which often disregards this component. Alex over at Metal-Fi bemoaned the drums’ quietness in the mix but to me it evokes Scandy black metal very convincingly.
Devoid of Light isn’t original. It doesn’t push any boundaries and it scarcely even seems American given its plundering of European black metal. But it still feels fresh and singular. Uada are black metal re-energized and they’re so much fun to hear. Never have loving jibes been more loving.