CodeThere seems to be a well of inspiration bubbling through this UK-based outfit presently – ‘Mut’ is the fourth album of their career, however it represents their second full-length in two years (with the release of the first two albums spanning a period of nearly eight!). Always ones to take a considered, measured approach to their releases, Code are currently in danger of becoming a prolific outfit – which, given the quality of said output, is something to celebrate.

Guitarist and mastermind Aort clearly feels the flames of creativity burning brightly at present and this compositional drive is felt keenly throughout ‘Mut’. Whilst last year’s ‘Augur Nox’ continued to push forwards along the progressive black metal template that Code explored and refined on their previous two albums, ‘Mut’ sees the band unclip their wings and take flight into hitherto unexplored regions of space, air and light. Progressive, abstract and atmospheric rock now seems to be their remit and it’s one they handle with ease.

The distortion on the guitars has been pulled right back – both Aort and fellow stringsmith Andras deliver tasteful, sparse arpeggios and chords, the underlying savagery of previous efforts replaced by a very measured and controlled approach. Nevertheless, Code’s trademark blend of twisted discordance and captivating melody is present in abundance and indeed, is rendered even more starkly by the crystalline, understated cleanliness of the production. The rhythm section meanwhile provide an exercise in tasteful, propulsive accompaniment.

Above this backdrop soar the vocals of Wacian and it is here that the evolution is at its most prominent. To not put too fine a point on it, his performance on this record is outstanding, the purity of the voice and sincerity of emotion shot through the delivery of every line. Take the plaintive power of the central refrain of album highlight ‘Dialogue’, reminiscent of Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh at his most passionate. There’s a touch of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke here also (the gentle falsetto on ‘Numb, an Author’ being a case in point) but Wacian’s tones here by and large are very much his own. A genuine talent has been unearthed.

This interplay between voice and sinuous musical accompaniment as at once both fascinating and intoxicating – ‘Inland Sea’ for example is a concise piece with a captivating vocal narrative, at once dramatic and catchy but never slipping into unnecessary bombast. The record closes with ‘The Bloom in the Blast’, again melding Wacian’s lungsmanship and Aort’s considered, ‘angular-yet-reflective’ compositional style with aplomb.

Code have created a wonderful, distinctive collection of true songs with Mut. The influences from the more abstract outfits deriving from the Norwegian black metal scene are fairly apparent to these ears (Virus and ‘Electric Sulking Machine’-era Beyond Dawn particularly) but there is a hint of the bleaker side of US indie (e.g. Slint) also. Combined with Wacian’s stellar vocal performance, this affecting listen deserves attention not just from the metal scene from which its creators originated but also the wider listening audience at large.

(9/10 Frank Allain)