Wode – Burn in Many Mirrors


Manchester metal fiends, Wode, might be the most anticipated outfit of 2021. Now signed to 20 Buck Spin and on their third album, the levels of expectation are as deafening as the vocal histrionics and black metal theatrics they displayed on 2017’s acclaimed Servants of the Countercosmos. “Why is there so much love for such sepulchral darkness?” you might ask.

Like Swedish vampiric metallers, Tribulation, Wode conjure many ancient gods and summon the spirits of dead legends. They take the malevolence of black metal and the rhythms of death metal and hark back to an anthemic 80s era of classic Venom. But you’re wide of the mark if you rationalise this as blackened death metal. Opener, ‘Lunar Madness’, is a cacophony of bewitching screams, macabre vocal inflections and subtle guitar trickery that would qualify as tech death if the band didn’t subordinate it all to a Motorhead speed metal aesthetic and curtail the bottom end dynamics in the mix. After six minutes you’re left biting your nails and wondering what just happened. The same thing happens on ‘Seprent’s Coil’. This time they create a sinister setting with an old school death metal intro before switching to a spandex posture of harmonising Iron Maiden guitars. Vocalist, M. Czerwoniuk, will have no trouble finding work in the theatre if things go south with his band. It’s an engrossing experience listening to him play the part of Satan’s servant with a chalice of virgin blood in his hand and an eye-bulging sorcery running through his fingers. Play this to your niece next time she brings home a Ghost album and see how she reacts.

It’s true that Burn in Many Mirrors is a spell-binding record that demands repeat listening, just as an enigmatic horror film with unresolved plot twists and subliminal imagery deserves multiple viewings. ‘Fire in the Hills’ is a clear standout on first playback. The opening guitar arpeggio and subtle laser synths are enchanting and unashamed in their gothic delight, yet the beat turns into an ice-cold punk rock waltz. Is it blackened thrash, ghoulish black metal, gothic death metal? Perhaps Gloucestershire’s Shadowflag are the nearest comparison, although the deliberate melodrama and subtle technicality of the guitar work make for a unique approach. Any metal band with a song called ‘Sulphuric Glow’ must have a sense of humour, right? Yet it’s doubtful you’ll hear a more terrifying intro to a song all year with the raucous roar and black metal assault giving way to a Schammasch take on traditional metal. This should not work, but Tribulation show it’s possible, and Wode achieve a similar outcome.

Like all good records, Wode remember that the best music invites the listener to ask questions. Why does ‘Vanish Beneath’ conjure up the passing of a full moon on the Yorkshire Dales? Would vampires listen to Black Sabbath and The Misfits if they really existed? Did the band just attempt to merge Sisters of Mercy with an Alice in Chains guitar solo in the final part of ‘Streams of Rapture (I, II, III)’?

Most of all, Burn in Many Mirrors is a fun frolic through the haunted woodlands and landscapes traversed by the witchfinders and sorcerers of the middle ages. With so much swagger and attitude and such attention to detail in the instrumentation, Wode prove you can mix showmanship and malevolence like a master poisoner who flatters his victims with praise before sending them to their grave. Extreme metal has a new member ascending to its elite ranks.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 02/04/2021

Record Label: 20 Buck Spin

Standout tracks: Serpent’s Coil, Fire in the Hills, Vanish Beneath

Suggested Further Listening: Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (2021), Venom – Possessed (1985), Schammasch – Hearts of No Light (2019)