UADA — Devoid of Light (review)

UADA — Devoid of Light album cover Album · 2016 · Melodic Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
A new name on the black metal scene is US act Uada and Devoid of Light (2016) is their debut full-length album, as well as their first release together all told. The band feature on vocals and guitars one Jake Superchi, who in the past has also used the monikers The Witcher and Lord Serpent. His name may be familiar due to his involvement in a number of other metal bands prior to Uada, the most notable of which seems to be the symphonic black metal act Ceremonial Castings, who were put on hiatus in 2014, the same year that Uada formed. He's joined by two members from black/thrash metal act Infernus, James Sloan and Trevor Matthews on guitars and drums respectively, with the line-up completed by bassist Mike Beck, who mixed the album with Jake Superchi. Beck has since been replaced by Robb Bockman of speed/power metal act Witches Mark.

Devoid of Light features a short, approximately 34 minute, running time spread across five tracks, a fairly standard practice for black metal albums. What's much less standard about Uada though is how varied a black metal sound they have managed to produce on Devoid of Light. Most bands have a style and stick to it, but that isn't the case here. At times Uada seem like a fairly traditionally styled black metal act, at others they've very melodic, which I'd consider their main focus. Some parts of the album also move into atmospheric black metal territory. Even within the confines of a single composition the band can abruptly change the mood and tone of the piece entirely, a perfect example of which is the album's title track Devoid of Light. Jake Superchi's vocals are also quite varied, ranging from traditional black metal shrieks to some deeper, but still very much black metal rather than death metal, style growls that are prominent, again, on the title track, which to my ears is a mini-masterpiece. Regardless of style his vocals are very well done.

That the band have gone for a decent production that allows their both their melodies and riffs to really stand out helps a lot in making this record as effective as it is. It's not crystal clean either though, so fans of the classic black metal sound need not be too alarmed. I'd say that Uada found a good balance for their material, presenting an album that sounds professional but still has the vibe and atmosphere of a black metal record.

One point I would like to address in this review is the fact that I've seen a lot of comparisons to the Polish black metal act Mgła regarding this release. For all I know they might be more accurate regarding earlier material by Mgła, so what I'm about to say should be taken with that pinch of salt, but compared to their last album Exercises in Futility (2015) I don't find them to be all that valid. The only real thing in common Devoid of Light has with Exercises in Futility is that they are both black metal albums. Such comparisons suggest a clone act to a degree which just isn't true, at least between these two albums. Of course given that Mgła's album is a very highly regarded release such comparisons might draw people to check Uada out (which they deserve to be), but to my ears Devoid of Light is actually the superior release in every way possible. It's more varied in its approach and the individual tracks are able to stand out more because of that, with the real clincher being that this one keeps calling me back to it for another spin whereas I only ever listened to Mgła's album once until revisiting it before doing this review to see if the claims held any merit.

Black metal seems to have been on a real high for the last couple of years, with many interesting and exciting releases coming out. Uada's Devoid of Light quickly proves itself worthy of being counted among the best of these. With its varied and consistently excellent five tracks, this one is going straight into my top ten releases of the year. It's also the best black metal debut of 2016 that I've come across so far, upsetting my previous holder of that title, Sojourner's Empires of Ash.
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