Hearing bands grow from record to record can be one of the fun parts of following musicians through their journeys. Where do they go, what do they add, what do they subtract, what do they become? Not that every band has to change the formula every time out, but it sure is more fun when you hear new music from a group and are knocked on your ass by how they’ve grown.
On that note, holy shit, on their sophomore album “Tales of Blood & Fire,” Uzala are damn near unrecognizable from the form they took on their debut album that came out just last year. I mean, the people look the same, but their sound has developed into something so markedly different that they could have put a different band’s name on this five-track new offering and no one would have wondered anything. Had I gotten this record with no band name and no bio attached and just sat down to listen, I’m not sure I ever would have guessed this was Uzala. Now, is that a bad or a good thing? It it an incredibly great thing, because this band went from a scuzzy, messy, charred idea to something way more fully realized and that has the potential to become one of the best bands in the entire doom genre. That might sound hyperbolic–I realize their debut, that I loved, had some divergent opinions–but take on this album and see if I’m not right. It’s astonishing both in development and quality of their music. Uzala are a fucking force.
Front and center of this band’s sharp new power is Darcy Nutt, whose vocals have expanded a million fold. She was always a good singer and one of Uzala’s sharpest weapons, but now she’s a superpower. Her range has expanded, as has her gift of expression, and hearing how she has continued to build upon her gift since last record is nothing short of a revelation. She has to be in the discussion when talking who has the most impactful voice in doom metal. The rest of the band also has grown burlier and more muscular, including guitarist Chad Remains and drummer Chuck Watkins (Nutt also plays guitar, so she’s a part of this hellish expansion of sound). Their aproach is massive and suffocating (production by the awesome Tad Doyle), but it also has fresh melodies and a sense of danger wrapped up in adventure that totally ramps up the drama and outright violence. This band is not to be messed with.
Uzala’s refurbished strengths are obvious right away, as “Seven Veils” drops with a doom-infested collection of riffs, then that meets Nutt’s soaring, soulful vocals that do their best to expand the band’s headspace and explore every square inch. The song slithers, boils, and melts down, as Nutt’s wordless melodies carry the song to its conclusion. “Dark Days” opens with seven straight minutes of drone thunder that is as mighty as anything Sunn 0))) contributed to the world of metal, and it keeps building and raging until it hits so hard, you wonder how it could get deadlier. But it does. A psychedelic-style melody slips out of that storm and catapults this track on its smoky second half, with Nutt adding to this slow, dreary killer. “Burned” also has its share of drone fire, but it also feeds on a stoner riff that rides into psyche weirdness and some liquidy, sci-fi-style bubbling. Nutt sounds as tough and menacing as ever on this song, cutting her way across the terrain, and as she weaves in and out of the mist that populates the closing stretch of this song, she also sounds deadly accompanied by the thrashing explosions that close this chapter.
“Countess” is one of Uzala’s most impressive songs to date. Nutt’s vocal melodies are enrapturing, and she takes complete control of the track as its storyteller. The band, meanwhile, is busy building a bluesy, shadowy track that would not sound out of place on the Rise Above label, as it conjures senses of Cathedral, Blood Ceremony, and Electric Wizard. The song punishes you, yet all the while it bristles with glimmering life and slashes through your senses like a white-hot blade. If this song doesn’t turn you on to Uzala’s glory, then perhaps you cannot be saved. Closer “Tenement of the Lost,” the shortest song on the record at 4:17, stomps all over the place, and the vicious, ominous assault is seconded by Nutt’s forceful, swaggering vocals that take on a new level of toughness. It’s a strong conclusion to the band’s best collection yet.
If you were wary of Uzala going into this, don’t ignore this record. Again, I really liked their debut album but can understand how its abrasiveness may have roughed up some people. But “Tales of Blood & Fire” is like their true arrival, an eye-opening experience that trumpets this band’s pure power and will and makes them one of doom metal’s most interesting bands going. Uzala have hit on something special, and they are well equipped to take over the metal landscape, burn what they don’t like, and rule with an iron, spiked fist.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/UZALA/108093595875096
To buy the vinyl version of the album, go here: http://kingofthemonstersrecords.bigcartel.com/product/uzala-tales-of-blood-fire
To buy the cassette version, go here: http://www.gypsybloodrecords.bigcartel.com/product/uzala-tales-of-blood-and-fire-cassette-preorder