Wednesday, October 2, 2013

…Ashes to ashes: UZALA – ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’

With five tracks examining the historic and folkloric wickedness of human nature, Uzala has triumphantly returned with their aptly titled second full-length album, ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’. Last year’s excellent self-titled debut was a murky, atmospheric journey to the dark side, occasionally blackened by the berserker howls of vocalist/guitarist Chad Remains. The remainder of the album, despite the melancholic tunes and hazy production, was given to moments of shimmering beauty due to the juxtaposing vocals of Darcy Nutt radiating from deep within the whirlwind of wah pedal abuse and distortion. For the recording of their sophomore effort the band recruited the inimitable Tad Doyle and his Witch Ape Studio which, in the end, has yielded a clearer, heavier album without completely sacrificing the dark moods and bad vibes of its predecessor.
Despite the clarity found on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’, the album still exhibits a foreboding atmosphere of tension and anxiety that, as Chad has commented, “…works perfectly for many of the songs since the subject matter deals with being hunted, murder, obsession, vengeance, despair, and loss.” Accompanying the cleaner production is the huge, cataclysmic drumming of Chuck Watkins and a redefined focus on Darcy’s vocals. Rather than escaping from amidst the tumult, her vocals are more pronounced, dynamic and, at times, commanding. Also catapulting Darcy to the forefront is the lack of vocal contributions from Chad this time around which, in the end, reigns in the aggression and unpredictability that so satisfyingly jarred the listener midway through their debut. Despite his absence vocally, Chad’s presence is imprinted on the five tracks that comprise ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ as his guitar is seamlessly entangled with Darcy’s to create earth-rending doom riffs, fuzzed-out walls of distortion, and mesmerizing leads.
What the band has sacrificed in ambient atmospherics they have gained in heft and lumbering aggression without delving into the whiplash frenzy found on either “Fracture” or “Wardrums” from their debut. Though the songs are heavier and the guitars snarl with an angrier tone, the album is still laced with quieter passages of calm psychedelia punctuated by bursts of distortion and Darcy’s ever-engaging vocals. For ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ the band re-recorded “Burned” from their 7” split with Mala Suerte and it flat-out rocks with a groove unrivalled by anything else on the album.  Like with their previous work, Uzala continues to experiment with noise and sonic textures. A rising tide of feedback kicks off the album opener “Seven Veils” and returns for the final track, “Tenement of the Lost”, where it fully engulfs the listener for what is Uzala’s most indulgent foray into the noise-as-aesthetic ideology before devolving into what is arguably their “softest”, most poignant track to date. Without Chuck’s destructive percussion and only the lone, heavily reverbed guitar accompanied by the lingering swell of distorted noise to carry the tune, the focus is placed squarely on Darcy’s wavering vocals—the perfect way to close out the album.
Uzala has crafted a masterful follow-up to their stunning debut by slightly altering their overall sound with a cleaner, weightier production. Despite the added heft and crispness, the album still smolders with a narcotizing burn capable of anesthetizing a woolly mammoth. ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ is one of the most interesting and immersive albums released this year and with only five tracks and a runtime near the forty-five minute mark the trip ends way too soon. Preorder the album through King of the Monsters Records and, for those who missed it the first time around, look out for the re-release of their self-titled album bundled with the ‘Cataract/Death Masque’ 12” single.
 Words: Steve Miller
Read the killer interview Steve had with Chad Remains a few weeks ago : here 

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