Wode - Servants of the Countercosmos2016 saw the release of the debut, self-titled, full-length album by Manchester’s Wode. While I never got round to a Thing You Might Have Missed, I was impressed by their vitriol and riffcraft. The arrival of the sequel scarcely a year later afforded me the opportunity to make amends for my prior laziness, so I booted up, strapped in and prepared myself for an auditory annihilation.

While I may trigger the obscure genre aficionados by saying this, I heard Wode as if it were a war metal album. I know this has genre connotations of blackened death metal but I don’t mean it in this way; rather, it was fast, cannoning and vitriolic, an aural representation of blitzkrieg. While Servants of the Countercosmos is still aggressive and mean, it also differentiates itself by featuring more diversity of sound. That was my greatest criticism of the former and this issue is assuredly addressed. The opening chords on “Crypt of Creation” following a short ambient introduction have a vaguely avant-garde tone and a number of riffs further utilize this tone and cyclical guitar-work to forge something far more alluring than anything on the self-titled album. There’s also more temporal variation to split apart the songs — most notably the 9-minute long track called “Chaos Spell” — more breakdowns to achieve the same and a moody, emotive acoustic conclusion on “Undoing.” It’s a confident step forward from Wode and demonstrates a band willing to assess and refresh their own formula.

I also love that Servants only runs for 31 minutes. They take a leaf out of the Slayer playbook by smashing the listener with immediate material and leaving them wanting more. The debut split 48 minutes across just six tracks and while there are still only six here, they’re of a much more satisfying duration. “Chaos Spell” is the exceptional long track but truly justifies itself. I wouldn’t call the writing progressive but it’s certainly dynamic, as it switches between an atmospheric, tremolo-picked lead, neck-ruining ferocity, bouncy drum rhythms and a surprisingly delicate lead and solo in the second half. The aforementioned acoustic conclusion is truly melancholic too. While despondent, it feels on the edge of re-exploding and I half-wish it would. Framing the record with a few minutes of calm while climaxing with “Chaos Spell” ensures Servants tracks a natural course which is satisfying to hear in its entirety.

Wode 2017

But the pièce de résistance? Riffs man. Riffs for days (or at least about 28 minutes). Three out of four band members are credited with guitars so I can’t pinpoint a star but maybe it’s this mix which permits such excellence. Scything leads in the vein of Emperor are the focus but death-influenced chugs also appear. These are contrasted effectively by airier, more atmospheric passages too. These three styles occupy about 90% of the music so it’s a good fucking job they’re executed so well. I could list the highlights but it would be a long list and you’d all be bored so just accept that there is a plethora of great riffs here. While we’re on the guitars, some of these solos are unusually eccentric for black metal. Black metal often traps itself in its puritanical aversion to pleasure but these solos offer a welcome shot of sheer fun.

I’m aware that this review has been overwhelmingly positive with no real criticisms to add but that I “only” awarded a 3.5. While Servants shuffles close to the hallowed ground beyond, something intangible holds me back. I’m quite confident it won’t be making my 2017 list even though it is one of best black metal records of the year. The disparity between my description and score was worth addressing as it highlights one of the difficulties with assigning a number in an assessment of art. But don’t let this hold you back from what’s still a highly worthwhile release. At the very least just sit and marvel at that amazing artwork.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Avantgarde Music
Websites: wode.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wode
Releases worldwide: May 31st, 2017

  • Reese Burns

    We’ve hit the mother-wode.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      You wode say that, woden’t you?

    • Wes Allen

      Looks like it’s a free downwode on Bandcamp.

      • lennymccall

        Good call I hadn’t noticed that. Done!

  • rumour_control

    “puritanical aversion to pleasure”–GOLD passage in a smart piece. Nice job.

    • El_Cuervo

      The idea is Theodor Adorno’s but I adapted it into that particular turn of phrase. One of the few things I now recall from the philosophical side of my degree.

      • rumour_control

        Indeed. Knew it wasn’t original and pure Cuervo Gold, but I loved the context within your stellar discourse. Cheers.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      It could almost be a Dimmu Borgir album title too…

      • rumour_control

        Love it. Puritanical Aversion to Pleasure. One word too many? Avert Puritanical Pleasure? That’ll do for Shagrath and crew.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Puritanical Pleasure Aversion would nail it, right?

          • rumour_control

            Very true! It’s settled. Dimmu Borgir has an album coming out this year, so we’ll make sure they seal the deal with your suggestion.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Make sure my name gets included in the “Thank you” list! ;)

  • Zach Ward

    Really enjoy these dudes. Debut was great, am glad this sounds good.

    • El_Cuervo

      For sure, it’s even better imo.

      • welyyt

        And it flows better too; it seems like they wanted to do the one-continuous-song thing for the whole album, but abandoned it halfway through, so the first three songs flow into one another, then they abandon it for Servants of the Countercosmos, but kinda return to it afterwards.

        Anyway, great review, killer album, the main riff on Temple Interment rules.

  • Pauline Zipzer

    Did this sneak up on anyone else or is it just me?

    • AgonMcDuck

      They released their debut April last year. I was not expecting a follow-up so soon.

  • Matt McMadden

    This album slays.

  • Eli Valcik

    I like this.

  • Jrod1983

    Love this band, and this album kicks ass.
    Great riffs, mean af.
    Easy 4.0 for me.

  • AndySynn

    I legitimately count their debut as one of the best Black Metal albums of the last several years… pure without being purist, elite without being elitist… absolutely loved it, start to finish.

    This one though… I haven’t quite made my mind up about it yet. It’s definitely a “heavier” album, but it’s not quite touching me in the same way (that’s what she said).

    • El_Cuervo

      I prefer it. As in my review, I found the ST a little one-note, maybe a little repetitive? That definitely isn’t a problem here.

      • Bob Lunger

        I couldn’t agree more. I prefer this album to the debut as well. This is a much more satisfying album, imo. This album isn’t in any way repetitive. 4.0/ 5 easy for me. Fantastic review again El_Cuervo.

    • R.Daneel Olivaw

      it’w because you havent heard of Rimfrost.

      • AndySynn

        Interesting response… you realise it’s not a zero-sum game, right?

  • David Prawira

    The intro sounds like annihilator songs

    • Tofu muncher

      imagine random nipples shown through. Nice.

    • jabba

      where do I find this shirt? fantastic

  • Tofu muncher

    another good finding courtesy of amg. Thanks.

  • Stuart Leeds

    I stumbled across their first album and loved it. I’ve had this one on Pre-order for what seems like months now and look forward to receiving it. This is a great band; and that’s a good and honest review. Thanks!

  • Mollusc

    Definitely interesting and nice review. Hope all ok if you were in the capital last night.

  • hallowed

    In this day and age you don’t expect bands to put out new music every year, so I was pleasantly surprised with the news of a new album. Liking it so far. Good review, also.

  • AgonMcDuck

    Their debut was in my top ten last year, so I am so thrilled they are getting love here!

    I don’t love this record as much. I’d prolly give it a 3.0, 3.5 tops. Nothing sticks to me like “Death’s Edifice” or “Cloaked in Ruin.” But “Temple Interment” is a fucking great song.

    But man am I glad you people know Wode exist.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    El 3.5 Cuervo… nice review, it did seem like you were describing a great record… for what it’s worth I’d give it the extra .5 for the art and run time.

  • lennymccall

    Serious contender for AotY for me. Even better than the last record!

  • Adam

    Reminds me a bit of early Emperor and early Dissection tossed into the Vitamix. That is a very good thing.

  • Mitrídates

    Chaos Spell is one the best things of this year.