Wode – Burn in Many Mirrors Review

I’m struggling to think of a musical genre which so obstinately refuses to go away as traditional black metal. Despite the progression of 30 years since the ‘second wave’ style was crystallized by the lonely teenagers of Norway, new bands continue to produce metal which is entirely imitative of such teens. Wode, of Manchester, joined the fray in 2016 with their self-titled debut which was an especially mean and riff-dominated example of the sound. It was a powerful, if one-dimensional, release which was bettered by its sequel called Servants of the Countercosmos which wrapped intricate leads and dynamic song-writing into a more cohesive album. 4 year later and Burn in Many Mirrors is primed for unveiling, promising yet more tales of cosmic evil.

Wode principally draw from the deep well of black metal but streaks of death metal also impact their sound. It offers a good counterpart to the recent StarGazer record, similarly pedaling an expansive approach to black and death metal, replete with a variety of textures and riffing styles, surprisingly detailed compositions and cosmic themes. Since their debut, Wode have never struggled with riffs which remains the case here too, boasting a solid range of blackened tremolo-picking leads, pummeling rhythms and more than a touch of shred. These leads remain dynamic as things shift frequently, and close listening is the most rewarding way to hear Burn as its melodies change often. Its dark and aggressive tone is pleasingly counter-balanced by the its more kinetic and exciting shredding leads and solos which are used to gild finales and highlight moments.

Burn also gets its atmosphere right, falling into the atmospheric-but-not-Cassiocore bucket of black metal. Its one sheet provides that “one may hear the ancient voice of obscure and revered gods reflected through Wode’s sulphuric incantations, the raging fire of the most blasphemous legends.” Marketing bollocks though this certainly is, and though useless in describing how the record sounds, I don’t disagree on an atmospheric level. It evokes dark mysticism, a distant cosmos and fiery evil. It has a lurching feel in a good and a bad way, as while the transitions from passage to passage are almost haphazard, it also contributes to its warped atmosphere.

If Servants was Wode 2.0 as compared with the debut, then Burn is more like Wode 2.5. It represents a refinement from Servants but not the evolutionary step undertaken previously. It takes the core developments of dynamic compositions and extends them a little further into more atmospheric and diverse territory. The finale and longest track called “Streams of Rapture (I, II, III)” typifies this. Cosmic and 80s-style synths comprise the introduction, before transitioning into the most furious black metal passage on the record. Tribal chants gather over piercing chords as the song progresses and it all closes with heroic classic metal shredding. Burn is, most essentially, black metal but streaks of compositional dexterity and varied influences mean that the stylistic consistency sometimes seen in black metal is not an issue.

In retrospect, I likely overrated Servants on the basis of my relatively few returns, and my then conclusion thankfully inhibited me from further overrating it by recognizing that something intangible was holding me back. Despite the interesting ideas and dynamic approach here, Burn still lacks that ‘something’ and I’m less inclined to be kind with my retrospect. Despite its strengths it isn’t a record I’m compelled to repeat which once more aligns it with the recent StarGazer as it also lacks strong hooks. The riffs are solid when actively listening but when focused on anything else it easily slips into the background for chunky stretches. While I was initially impressed by the dynamic song-writing, with repetition I’m left feeling there’s a lack of focus and sticky melodies.

If a record is unable to breach the frequent listening threshold, it will never exceed a 3.0 and if it can’t do this while also lacking particularly memorable tracks, it will never exceed a 2.5. Burn progresses sufficiently far from Servants that Wode are not simply spinning their wheels and their existing fans may find something to enjoy, but it lacks quality overall for my recommendation. It has good riffs and interesting ideas but is unable to wrap these into a compelling whole. It is therefore a frustrating release more than anything.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Website: facebook.com/wode
Releases Worldwide: April 2nd, 2021

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