Album: Cult of a Dying Sun
Genre: Melodic Black Metal
Release Date: 25 May, 2018
So this week’s release of Uada’sCult of a Dying Sun brings us an interesting case study in what I wish was a more common trait in Metal: A great album by a great band that doesn’t carve out new ground or do anything particularly distinctive or visionary, they just show up, kick ass, and deliver the goods.
Too often in Metal we get a ton of bands that are decent-to-good in the talent area, and they put out records that are Just Fine, meaning they’re competent and nothing to be ashamed of, and yet they are nothing more. There’s no spark there, no pizzazz. They’re missing whatever that element is that makes a decent album Pretty Damned Good. With Uada, on this release and their first album, you get a sterling example of just what I’m talking about in the opposite direction. You get a Black Metal album that is full of melody, atmospherics, sizzling guitar work, great drumming, incredible vocals, and of course a bass that does more than just buzz in the background. You get great songs and great performances and great production. What you won’t get is ground-breaking territory, and you won’t get any kind of particular originality. And that’s more than okay, because Uada do what so many others fail to do: they create music that is derivative and make it their own, and going beyond that, they make it sound fresh and exciting. This must be terribly hard to do, because like I said, it doesn’t happen often.
Opener “The Purging Fire” is a great example of this. Blasting out right way, shredding your face with melodic Black Metal hooks that are at once familiar and yet still pleasantly fresh-sounding. They settle into a nice groove, transitioning from a full-on assault to a smooth cruise with seemingly little to no effort. What unfolds is a song that is at once fierce and yet melodically delightful to the ear. These guys are talented, and they rip it up, and they don’t apologize for the added dynamics. Instead, they revel in them.
“Snakes & Vultures” comes next, and man, talk about a song that cruises. It comes in all melody and heavy, polished and epic, and then gets downright nasty. This is maybe my favorite song on the record, although with repeated listens, that might change. Like all the other tracks, this one is long, which I would say lends the band some prog cred, although you won’t find any particularly typical prog stylings here. I mean “prog” in the sense of having a long song, with many movements, that never loses your attention. This one rumbles right along, punching you one second, caressing you the next. Epic stuff here.
Title track “Cult of a Dying Sun” is another classic number. The guitars start out with a twin lead that reminds me a bit of “The Hellion” by Judas Priest, maybe just a little slowed down. They quickly transition into that patented Black Metal that they do so well. Special kudos to vocalist/guitarist Jake Superchi on this one (as well as on all the others, really): he does an excellent job of switching between Death grunts and Black screeches, as well as adding this extra (wolf) howl to several of his intonations. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
“The Wanderer” has an acoustic beginning that’s all swirling with fog and mystic feeling, showing this band has a good range of dynamics. They can caress and creep you out, as well as smash your face in. And once again, this is nothing new in Metal, but damned if it isn’t flawlessly executed and simply amazing here. Placed right smack dab in the middle, this haunting, majestic number bridges the gap between the first side and the second, offering a lovely respite while also acting as a key component in the overall flow of the record.
“Blood Sand Ash” lumbers out of the gates, heavy as hell and full of power and confidence, a pretty typical Uada kind of song, which may sound like an insult, but it is not. This is the band doing their thing; nothing more, nothing less.
“Sphere (Imprisonment)” offers a little something different, the song sounding a tiny bit more Sci-fi, with layerings of cruddy menace added to the song, just to keep it from spinning off into space. The band rages on, until we get that dropout at about the 2:20 mark, and we get treated to some solo bass, the dynamics of the song changing, slowing, slogging for a few moments, before raising back out of the murk like a lurching, giant monster. There is some sweet, melodic soloing here, bringing light to this darkness between the stars.
Final song “Mirrors” is the longest one of the bunch and you get the sense that this is it, the culmination of the journey. It’s almost like you’re cresting a hill and there it is, the fabled city you’ve been questing for, laid out in the valley before you. There’s a sense of triumph here, of destination’s end. Of course, it isn’t that easy. There’s plenty of bruising metal on display, with lots of added melody. “Mirrors” is a nice summation of the album as a whole, and a fitting end to this tidal wave of greatness.
Uada bring the talent, the chops, the songwriting prowess, and deliver the goods in this terrific new album. They do not reinvent Melodic Black Metal, and they do not rewrite the rules. What they do is offer a steady dose of what makes this particular subgenre so great, and they do it with style and swagger.
1. The Purging Fire
2. Snakes & Vultures
3. Cult of a Dying Sun
4. The Wanderer
5. Blood Sand Ash
6. Sphere (Imprisonment)
Total Playing Time: 56:01