In 2016, Uada planted a seed. It was called Devoid of Light, and they spent the next two years watering it with copious press coverage, tours across both North America and Europe, festival appearances, and incendiary live shows. Throughout this time, the seed began its steady growth, and in 2018 the wretched stalk has borne forbidden fruit. The drupes of this foul plant came to be known as Cult of a Dying Sun, the Portland-based group’s much-anticipated sophomore album. Now Uada beckon listeners forward like serpents in Eden, tempting you: take just one bite; just one listen.
Like the tainted fruit of Eden, Cult of a Dying Sun begs the question: is this album worth inviting the wrathful ire of the heavens? The answer is a resounding yes. If Devoid of Light was a promise, Cult of a Dying Sun is the fulfilment. Every idea present on the band’s debut has been expanded upon on this glorious follow-up. This album captures a band coming into their own, and becoming more confident in their identity. Despite Devoid of Light‘s powerful musicianship and intelligent, exciting songwriting, there’s a certain boldness on Cult of a Dying Sun that simply wasn’t present on the debut.
One of the few complaints I’ve seen levied against Uada is that their debut sounded too similar to other prominent artists at times. On their second swing, Uada allow more of their own identity to shine through, proving that they are more than the sum of their influences. Sure their sound owes a lot to acts like Mgla and Dissection, but on Cult of a Dying Sun Uada sound like Uada. And what exactly do Uada sound like? Riff-heavy black metal with no shortage death metal influences and a strong ear for twin-guitar melodies, and neckbreaking grooves. In fact, every song on this album (save for “Wanderer,” an atmospheric interlude) has at least two or three riffs in it that could prove fatal to those standing in the front row when played live.
The band’s predilection for strong riffs and penchant for slick songwriting is what drove them to the forefront of the USBM scene in 2016 without so much as a demo to their name. But this time around, I feel it’s the vocals that steal the show. Jake Superchi is a multi-talented individual; the album’s liner notes credit him with guitars, both standard and acoustic pipe organs, pianos, and the layout/design of the album’s physical copies. This is all on top of his incredible, multi-faceted vocal performance. His range stretches from standard black metal shrieks to painful wails, menacing snarls and throaty, ritualistic chanting. The gurgling, Demilich-esque death metal vocals teased on “Our Pale Departure” from Devoid of Light get more stage time on Cult of a Dying Sun, adding yet another texture to an already detail-rich album. For an example of his vocal prowess, jump to the 3:36 point of the album’s title track. You get to hear some of his ghastly death metal vocals, followed by a throat-destroying note that gets held for an inhuman amount of time.
But Cult of a Dying Sun is not perfect. However, it is very close. I have two minor gripes with this album that, while not major, are not insignificant either. The first of them is that Cult of a Dying Sun is missing the organic, earthy production that Devoid of Light was given courtesy of Joel Grind (of Toxic Holocaust fame). The beefier Arthur Rizk production job isn’t bad, but it dampens the album’s edges ever so slightly to my ears. The second issue I have is one with the track listing. I feel that if you were to swap around the album’s final two songs, it would make for a much stronger conclusion to the record. “Mirrors” is by no means a weak song, but I feel that penultimate track “Sphere (Imprisonment)” has a conclusiveness that “Mirrors” does not. But as I previously stated, neither of these complaints are dealbreakers. No, not by a long shot.
In short, Uada have done it again. If there were any doubts as to Uada’s longevity when Devoid of Light was taking extreme metal by storm, they’ve been put to rest by Cult of a Dying Sun. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that Uada will be counted amongst the brightest of USBM’s infernal stars. If you allowed Devoid of Light to pass you by in 2016, it is time to make amends. The sooner you hear Cult of a Dying Sun, the better. Is this my Album of the Year for 2018? It’s a bit early to say, but it sure as hell looks that way. An absolute must-hear.
Cult of a Dying Sun is available through the Eisenwald webstore.