Uada comes to us from Portland, but instead of sounding like 1,000 other Pacific Northwest black metal bands, the particular brand offered on sophomore album Cult of a Dying Sun sounds pulled from 90s Sweden. More specifically, Uada’s melodic black metal can largely trace its origins back to the classic albums of Dissection and Dawn, although Uada rarely get quite so frigid as those acts, and also inject a touch of Eastern European sorrow into the mix in the form of some Drudkh-ish harmonic progressions. “Type metal” to be sure: Dissection with fewer neoclassical or thrash vibes, or Dawn with a less apocalyptic vibe.
A tendency towards 90s sounds should be no surprise, seeing as how vocalist and guitarist Jake Superchi got his start back then with Ceremonial Castings. Nor should it be a surprise that Uada handles the sound largely with aplomb, understanding that the most important element is the weaving of melodies through changes in rhythm, aggression, riff delivery, and mood. Opener “The Purging Fire,” for example, begins with full fury, blast(beat)ing out of the gate with the riffs at their sharpest, but eases off the aggression some for the verses while almost allowing itself to rock. After a bit of a bridge, the whole band takes things “higher” – intensity, actual notes, etc. – all while hinting to the earlier melodies. It’s an admittedly time-worn songwriting technique that has its roots in far older styles than 90s blue-cover-black-metal, but it’s still the best way to make this form of metal sound organic.
Most of this could have been fixed by editing the songs themselves as opposed to cutting them. Take “Snakes & Vultures,” which at over nine and a half minutes would imply a grand dynamic sweep, but doesn’t quite justify its significant length by the end. The counterpoint to this argument would be to point out that every part of the song is at least very good (the Thurios level of desperation in the vocals is particularly nice), but by repeating too many of them several times, it blunts the impact a bit.
Still, everything here is at least good, most of it quite so, and there remain little details that ought to provide hooks for the more dedicated listener. The title track was a smart choice for a point of focus, as the song’s slowly-developing melodies, mirroring tremolo harmonies, near-churns, and Bathory-by-way-of-Memoria Vetusta drum thumps all make it a highlight. Closer “Mirrors” is another near-stunner, smartly switching from many of Uada’s standard tremolo harmony/blast combinations to a mix of sustained notes and openly-picked riffs while maintaining the blasts for a small oddball touch. Contrary to “Snakes & Vultures,” the 10-plus minute closer does justify its length.
If this review gives the impression that Cult of a Dying Sun is a bit of a mixed bag, well, it might be, but that doesn’t mean it also shouldn’t be sought out by fans of the style. With the exception of a few issues of self-editing, Uada gets it, and their choice of type metal – which somehow never sees over-saturation despite coming from some legendary bands – ought to ensure they get their share of ears.