Album Review: UADA Cult of A Dying Sun
They seemed to arrive out of nowhere in 2016—faces veiled and clad in leather jackets. The Portland quartet Uada blindsided black metal audiences with their debut album, Devoid of Light. They had no prior demos or EPs, just a string of shows in which they played their early material. It's certainly something not typically seen, especially in black metal where a lot of bands build their name on raw demos. Yet, for Uada, the atypical introduction was a bolt of lightning. Those outside the Pacific Northwest's metal hotbed quickly learned how infectious their melodic black metal was. Now, on their much-anticipated second full-length album, Cult of A Dying Sun, the band shows that lightning does, in fact, strike twice.
Much of Cult of A Dying Sun is undoubtedly an exercise in musical growth. A lot of what made Devoid of Light so desirable has been intensified and mastered for this new record. "Snakes & Vultures" is one of the best examples of this. The second single from Cult is quite lengthy, yet it is a microcosm for Uada's vision. The opening melody is incisive and shows the band's penchant for Swedish melodic death and black metal a la Dissection. Jake Superchi's vocals are much more commanding this time around. As he moves through his expansive vocal range, he does so with significant control. Again, the album's second track showcases this wonderfully.
Though much of the band's stylings resemble the European school of thought, there is a touch of the Cascadian wilderness every now and then. That atmosphere that bands like Weakling and Wolves in the Throne Room popularized shows up in songs like "The Wanderer." The five and a half minute instrumental offering is roughly the album's midway point. It seems more of a moment of reprieve from the previous three tracks; a chance to catch your breath before the final three songs.
It is certainly welcomed after the preceding title track. The eponymous song is Uada's most furious track they've released to date. The opening sounds like a blackened version of Judas Priest's "The Hellion," and it sustains throughout waves of Brent Boutte's blast beats across the track's eight-minute runtime. There's much more to this track though. Again, Superchi's vocals are immense—the grizzled howl at the 3:49 mark is wild. The towering riffs and solos from James Sloan and Superchi's guitars are highlights as well.
On the other end of "The Wanderer," Cult's final three songs push towards long-form structure; they range from eight to 10 minutes long. Thankfully, with Uada's knack for charismatic songwriting, they avoid the common pitfall of boring long songs. The mammoth closing track, "Mirrors," being the best example. Soaring, melodic riffs seem to carry the song from verse to verse. In each of those verses, Uada melds a sort of black 'n' roll shape that's rather hypnotizing in certain moments. Still, each of the songs on Cult of A Dying Sun bring something wholly entrancing or captivating.
Uada's artistry and mystique are advanced beyond their years. This quartet is known for their dynamic live sets, incredibly detailed promotional material, and of course, their command on melodic black metal. If Devoid of Light wasn't enough to sell listeners on Uada, then Cult of A Dying Sun will certainly do the trick. Though they catch some flack for pulling a similar aesthetic to Poland's Mgła, they are quickly asserting themselves as the United States' pillar in this style of extreme metal. The effort and care that goes into this project simply cannot be stated enough. The path they've taken to get to this point has been a bit unorthodox by black metal's criteria. Yet, with music this powerful and ruthless, they prove that quality reigns over quantity.