The (Black) Metal scene is something like a global phenomenon. Being a non-mainstream form of music as well as a minority it is as unifying supportive as it is viciously deconstructive and divisive. In 2020, I cannot think of a band who has suffered under that trait more than UADA. After releasing their debut album “Devoid of Light”, it wasn’t long before hipsters, internet trolls and dungeon dwelling “kvlt” critics starting pointing fingers and drawing parallels to a certain band called MGŁA, who had a similar formula. The fans demanded longer songs (and album length was criticized by quite a few people) and the band listened and answered by releasing “Cult of a Dying Sun”. However, instead of showing gratitude for actually listening to them, said fans and critics just started pointing more and more fingers and ridicule and more and more MGŁA parallels were drawn. Not to mention the meme’s that surfaced on the internet after the band called out a festival/concert organizer for having them play by absolute bright daylight. As ridiculous as it may sound to you dear readers, but know this: an artist has the right to realize his own vision for his music, be it sound, be it attire or other aesthetics; they have every right to call out a promoter or organizer for screwing up said vision.
Having, seemingly, learned from the above, UADA noticeably (but without much fuss) overturned the tables, gave everybody the finger and did something nobody really saw coming…
Starting with the awesome, slightly more colourful than its predecessors, cover artwork (courtesy of Kris Verwimp) and the very beginning of opener and title track “Djinn”, you know that you are into something different here.
The intro and track build-up just screams classic NWOBHM (meets Post-Punk) before blasting into a frenzy of melodic Black Metal guitar riffing only to tone down the speed and return to the aforementioned influences. Right about now, you will start to notice that they are definitely on their way of finding their own sound and that “Djinn” shows that the band is not afraid to show their true influences on the black sleeves (of their hoodies). The song has an AMAZING midsection followed by a soulful solo that will definitely move something you…listen for yourself.
Second song, “The Great Mirage” continues with the band toning down the speed even more into almost Doom Metal territory before breaking that up with their epic melodic Black Metal riffery. What gives the songs on “Djinn” so much more additional power is the versatile and perfectly timed vocals (and vocal lines), courtesy of Jake Superchi (Vocals and Guitars). Not only is he an amazing vocalist, but an amazing lyricist who is capable of writing meaningful as well as catchy rhyming lyrics, without falling into the dreaded “nursery rhyme pit”.
Nowhere is this as evident as on the first 13+ minute epic (and second single) entitled “No Place Here”. A song where, lyrically, the band points their finger back at the scene that betrayed them, and arguably has some of the catchiest moments on the album and covers everything UADA is known for.
“In the Absence of Matter” is a much faster song, which is broken up by their by now well-established slow-downs, which slightly remind me of the atmosphere of the early works of a band such as… (wait for it…) NOVEMBRE. I am sure you did not see this comparison coming. But yes, the slower sections here certainly play on that same feeling you would find on NOVEMBRE’s debut album “Wish I Could Dream it Again” (re-recorded as “Dreams D’azur”).
By the time the song “Forestless” is half-way through, I kind of started wishing that UADA would incorporate some darker slower and more “brooding” almost Death Metal-Esque chords and moments…and the “Djinn” granted my wishes (see what I did there?) with the amazing closer and epic entitled “Between Two Worlds” which clocks in at almost 14 minutes. This song has a section that starts, just shy of the 6:00 minute mark with a very OSDM drum line and matching guttural vocals, which is exactly what this album needed to keep the listener interested until the last second of the hour-long journey.
I know 60+ minutes of Black Metal sounds like a lot to digest. But due to the warm, clear (yet not overly polished) production, where every instrument is perfectly audible and mixed with the clever variations in songwriting, vocals and some simply amazingly soulful and effective solos (courtesy of James Sloan), the ride feels as if it’s over way too soon, and you will want to start it all over again.
On a personal basis, I think this album will end up on quite a few year-end lists…it definitely is on mine.