In just a few short years, British black metal band Wode not only captured lightning in a bottle, but somehow managed to teach themselves how to command it directly into the vessel by sheer will. Their 2016 self-titled debut found them carving out exciting new space in a field gone uncomfortably claustrophobic, breathing new life into its choked catacombs and brightening some of its most drab corners. And then they did it again less than a year later on 2017’s Servants of the Countercosmos, reaching into harrowing intergalactic spaces that harbored greater room for atmospheric experimentation and melodic immediacy. At the rate the band had been going, Wode’s evolution from a promising black metal band to one of its most innovative new bands seemed to happen happen overnight.
Bands have burned out in a blaze of ignominy in less time than it’s taken for Wode to eventually release their third album, and it’s for the best that they took their time to get here. Burn In Many Mirrors, their third album and first for 20 Buck Spin, is both their most accomplished and most exciting album to date. Everything here feels grand and triumphant without leaning into the genre’s least inspiring impulses—extended atmospheric instrumental intros, ornate synthesizers, spooky interludes. Burn In Many Mirrors is lean and it’s focused, casting aside the unnecessary detritus of outdated black metal clichés.
Structured similarly to their past two albums and featuring six tracks (making it 6-6-6, which is probably not a coincidence), Burn In Many Mirrors finds Wode as comfortable as ever in taking their compositions to new and increasingly more fun territory without leaning heavily on genre as a guide. They’re black metal songs, loosely speaking, but they’re also muscular beasts that refuse to be reined into narrow paddocks. And once they’re off, it’s a thrill to see just where they’ll end up.
The introduction of “Lunar Madness” is one of the rare moments when Wode allow themselves a moment of pomp and indulgence, employing a brief bit of fanfare to get the fire-breathing dragon off the ground. But in less than a minute it’s soaring. The track is punishing and relentless, with squealing solos and a furious melodicism that showcases just how much they’ve sharpened their songwriting in the past three years. It carries a trace of new-school gothic metal in the vein of Cloak or Tribulation, but “Serpent’s Coil” carries that even further, the band showing off a transition into bloodthirsty rock ‘n’ roll with grace and agility, and a fair share of fearsome growls on the part of vocalist M. Czerwoniuk. It becomes a challenge just to identify all the standout moments even in just six tracks: the arpeggios in “Fire in the Hills,” the hard-charging black ‘n’ roll riffs in “Sulphuric Glow,” the sinister harmonies of “Vanish Beneath,” pretty much everything that happens in “Streams of Rapture.”
In territory where being the most “extreme” is often the end goal, Wode choose not to make that their battleground, opting instead to simply craft the best songs they possibly can without necessarily letting go of the qualities that make them extreme. It never feels pretentious or overwrought, but embodies all the qualities a great black metal record should and then some. This is an appealing darkness, one that’s fun to try on and get comfortable with—equal parts catharsis and escapism, an embrace of unhinged fury in the denim-and-leather wardrobe of classic heavy metal hedonism. There’s value in that beyond the cosplay and corpse paint; Wode may well be making music that threatens to turn your soul inside out, but they make it sound unusually fun.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.