As some of our loyal Vault Hunters may have noticed, we’ve written about PDX-based black metal band UADA a few times in the last month or so. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I honestly can’t remember the last time there was a USBM band that was anywhere near as buzzed about, or so totally deserved that buzz, as UADA. Secondly, their recently released second full-length Cult of a Dying Sun is easily one of the best albums released in all of metal thus far in 2018, and I wouldn’t be surprised it it ended up topping a lot of lists come December.
In his rave review of the album shortly after its release, our resident dungeon-dweller Reese said that:
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 […] has at least two or three riffs in it that could prove fatal to those standing in the front row when played live.
And speaking of playing live…Uada will once again be taking the stage at the Barracuda in Austin this year for the third installment of Red River Family Fest, along with Dispirit, FIN, Adzalaan, Abstracter, Imperial Triumphant, Entheogen, and about fifteen more as-yet-announced bands. Early Bird tickets are still available until the end of the month, and they’re going fast – grab yours here, and then check out my conversation with UADA vocalist/guitarist Jake Superchi below.
Cult of a Dying Sun is now available from Eisenwald Records.
Indy Metal Vault: So for starters, thanks for the interview. Cult of a Dying Sun is absolutely ferocious – easily one of my favorite black metal records of the year thus far, so I’m excited to have the chance to talk about it. I know you’ve already toured it a bit in Europe – how are the new songs going over live? I know there used to be a sort of stigma against USBM bands in Europe. Krieg in particular seemed to have a rough time of it back in the early 2000s. Are audiences over there generally accepting to American bands now, or were there moments when you felt like you were being viewed as second-class black metal citizens and really needed to prove yourselves on the European stages?
Jake Superchi: Thank you. You know, that is a great question because there has always been a talk from Europeans about Americans not being able to understand or properly play Black Metal. I always found it interesting since all our blood leads back to the same source. After visiting Europe it was clear to see how easy (for lack of a better term) those bands have it there. Lots of Scandinavian bands receive grants in order to play music, as well as a much larger audience & fan base. You can really tell that Black Metal has been widely accepted in the old country. Here in the States there’s still a bit of a stigma & in order to succeed in such a Capitalist environment you have to truly give it your all just to stay above water. With that said, UADA has had a great reception, the new songs have also seemed to be well received, & we haven’t seen any discrimination for being Americans.
IMV: The one thing that has struck me about Uada since the first time I heard the band is that you don’t sound like you’re from Portland. I know that in a lot of ways the whole ‘regional scene’ thing is kind of overrated, but given the melodic, riff-driven style of black metal you play, I’d have sworn you were from Brooklyn/NYC. Your sound has much more in common with Woe, Black Anvil, Belus, Yellow Eyes, etc. than any of the PNW ‘Cascadian’ bands or what the Vrasubatlat bands are doing. How long did it take you to arrive at that sound when Uada got together? Since there aren’t any demos that predate Devoid of Light(or at least none that I’m aware of anyway), it feels a bit like the ground spilt open and the band emerged with their sound already fully formed.
JS: It is no secret that I am a big fan of & highly influenced by Carnivore/Type O Negative, so if there is any Brooklyn sound coming through in what we do, we would have to credit Pete (RIP) & crew for that. But yes, when UADA formed there was sort of an idea/formula that was incorporated to our sound & style. Without limitations or regulations we really wanted to bring a dual guitar attack with leads, solos & harmonies you’d hear from the Swedish scene in the 90s ala Dissection, Dawn, Vinterland, Unanimated & so on. This certain love for the dual guitars is also very inspired from older bands like Judas Priest, (early) Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Thin Lizzy & so on. It was just something that you don’t hear much of in Black Metal these days & in a way we wanted to bring that nostalgia back. This band is also the first time I have personally played live with another guitarist, so it is really great to be able to experiment & work off of each other’s style & riffing. It leaves endless possibilities for us to expand upon.
IMV: That being said, I do notice what seems like at least one difference in the songwriting on Cult of a Dying Sun. At least to my ears, it sounds like there’s more interplay between the guitars this time around, including the occasional tasty twin harmony. It’s also possible the album is more aggressive overall, particularly the vocals. Did you approach the songwriting any differently than you did on Devoid of Light, or were these elements that just arose naturally as you were working on the songs? What is your songwriting process like overall? Do you tend to write separately, or is it more of a collaborative thing?
JS: James & I have always taken care of the majority (if not all) of the writing in UADA. The first album was a bit more collaborative. After we started recording Devoid of Light, we immediately started writing for the next album. It was a very inspiring time & everything was flowing naturally. While the other members in the band at the time were off with other obligations, we focused on the writing & composing for Cult of a Dying Sun. Most of the album was written in early to mid 2015, but due to the heavy demand for live appearances, we continued to push back the recording process. By the time we were ready to record the new album we had an entirely new rhythm section, so a lot of this was hashed out in the studio as opposed to in a rehearsal room before hand. Of course, this was not an ideal situation, but it was the best option we had due to things out of our control. On the next album we will be going for a much more collaborative & natural approach.
IMV: I don’t generally ask specifically about individual songs, but I’m really curious about where instrumental track “The Wanderer” came from. It makes for quite the centerpiece on the record with its Western/ghost town vibe, and it’s incredibly cinematic as well. I can totally picture it as the soundtrack behind the climactic scene in an ultraviolent modern gunfighter movie. Was it intended to be an instrumental from the start?
JS: “The Wanderer” was planned to be an instrumental from the beginning & was the last song we wrote for the album. Back in October of 2016, we were celebrating two years of existence as a band & the newly rising success of our debut album. On the night of the super-moon, James & I hiked to the top of a Butte locally with our acoustic guitars. Once at the top we followed the light & found our way into a grove of trees among the open fields. Inside the grove we sat on a fallen tree by candlelight & we started to write the song. After some time working on it we started to hear some clatter not far off in the distance. We continued to play but our eyes ventured outwards to see that we had visitors. Under the super-moon we started to become surrounded by the silhouettes of wildlife. Deer, raccoon, owls & other small animals made the rounds curious to see where the music was coming from. At this point we knew what we had just created was indeed something special.
IMV: I’ve only had the chance to see the lyrics to “Snakes & Vultures,” but from what I’ve been able to pick up while listening to the album, there seems to be some common imagery in a few of the songs. Is there any kind of thematic or narrative thread running through Cult of a Dying Sun?
JS: The concept to the album is reflection. It is a reflection of self, what is seen in others, society, & the mental disorders we see & deal with on a daily basis. It is a much more aggressive theme & one written out of frustration. At the time of writing & recording we were venturing out into the world & seeing a lot of pushback around us. Lots of people trying to tear us down & ruin what we were building. At the same time, we witnessed the political outrage & watched people destroy their own personal relationships over opinions & constant finger pointing without the ability to look at themselves. So you can see it is a very human album, & dealing with humans isn’t always the easiest of things.
IMV: From a production standpoint, Cult of a Dying Sun sounds amazing. One thing I’ve seen people say over and over about Devoid of Lightis that it’s a really solid album (which it is), but it doesn’t quite capture the power of your live shows. After listening to the two albums back-to-back, I can definitely hear a difference – Cult of a Dying Sun is all teeth. If I’m not mistaken, you handled most of the production/mixing on Devoid of Light yourselves, but worked with outside producers for the new album. What motivated that decision? Were you aiming for something closer to your live sound this time around?
JS: We definitely want to capture that live energy & essence on record, & that was the goal on this album. Unfortunately, due to circumstances there were some techniques that I wish would have been done differently, but again, we did what we had to do. The album does sound a bit closer to our live sound. but still isn’t quite there yet. They say the third time is the charm.
IMV: I like to ask a least one gear question, since the topic kind of fascinates me. What did your studio rigs look like for Cult of a Dying Sun? How close are they to what you take out on the road with you?
JS: Well, that is one of the things that I wasn’t fully content about in this process. On the first album we had mic’d our exact live rigs & that was something I wanted to capture again on this one. Unfortunately, the engineer was more interested in using my Kemper to record all guitars, including the bass, & had refused to mic cabinets as per our request. The guitar profile is a profile of what I am using live, but recording directly (as the engineer wanted) really lost some of the grit the guitar tones could have used. All in all, though, we are happy with the final outcome.
IMV: You worked with Kris Verwimp again on the cover art for Cult of a Dying Sun, and there are some pretty obvious similarities between that cover and the one for Devoid of Light. How closely did you work with him on the concepts for each cover? The art on Cult looks like the before image for the cover of Devoid. Was that something you’d planned out back on Devoid of Light?
JS: Yes, the album cover is indeed a prequel to Devoid of Light, & the third in our trilogy will be a prequel to this album cover. Being that this album is all about reflection, it made perfect sense to have the cover reflect back to a time before. It also will show that as we move forward time goes backwards & sometimes in order to move forward you must go back first.
IMV: It looks like there is a lot of touring in Uada’s future in 2018. You’re heading out shortly for a run of Western/Southwestern dates with Wolvhammer and The Black Moriah. There’s also already been a Uada/Panzerfaust/Imperial Triumphant show announced in Indy in mid-October. You will also be back in Austin in September for your second consecutive appearance at Red River Family Fest. Since you’re RRFF vets, is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to this time around?
JS: Austin is a great city & the fans at RRFF last year really showed us a lot of support & energy. We look forward to coming back with a longer & much more intense set this time around. We also will have our full backline with us as we did not last year, so finally we will be able to give RRFF the 100% UADA onslaught.
IMV: I know you’ve talked about this elsewhere, but since it’s such a cool story and not all of out readers may be familiar with it, can you talk about meeting the Secretary to the President of México Roberto Padilla Domínguez when you played in Mexico City last November?
JS: Ah yes, last year we arrived in México City via plane from Bogota, Columbia. Upon arrival we met the promoter for the Méxican leg of our Latin American tour. He briefly mentioned that the Secretary to the President of México Roberto Padilla Domínguez was an UADA fan & would try his best to make the show despite how busy he is. At the time we thought it was a fascinating story, but didn’t actually think that we would see or meet Mr. Domínguez. After a few days of playing in other cities, we returned to México City for show night & back stage waiting for us was the Secretary to the President of México. Upon meeting him, he immediately requested a photograph & then handed us a drumhead to sign. Apparently he is a drummer & a big fan of metal & UADA. A few days later when we were at the airport getting ready to head home, the promoter came up to me & handed me four little white boxes, one for each of the band members, & said this is a gift from Mr. Roberto Padilla Domínguez & assured us that he highly enjoyed our show. Inside the white box was a thank you note & a gold & silver coin. It was definitely a moment that we will never forget.
IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artist – is there anything else you want to add?
JS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us & best regards to you, Indy Metal Vault & all that have taken the time to read & support UADA in the journey thus far.