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pushing boundaries and getting it right - 90%

gk, June 4th, 2009

Code’s debut, 2005's Nouveau Gloaming was a mish mash of black metal, melancholic doom rock ala Katatonia and a concentrated effort to push the boundaries of black metal. That album doesn’t always work with most of the experimentation coming across as a bit forced and lacking a cohesive structure. Now, four years later, the band return with session drummer Adrian Erlandsson in tow and Resplendent Grotesque is an album that is superior to the debut in every way possible.

Right from album opener Smother the Crones, it’s obvious that the band has given a lot more thought to the songwriting on the album. The music starts off like Arcturus jamming with Prometheus era Emperor and the vocals of Khvost and Vicotnik really push this song to another level with excellent backing vocals from Vicotnik and clean Garm like vocals from Khvost. The music right through the album is full of vaguely black metal riffing but the band is completely unafraid to experiment with tempo and melody while always retaining the heaviness that this sort of music should have. In the Privacy of Their Own Bones is atmospheric black metal but the chorus sees Khvost coming across like a more powerful Jonas Renske with the band settling into a very catchy mid paced groove. The Rattle of Black Teeth is discordant but always melodic with a middle part that is total Pink Floyd worship. Possession is the Medicine is probably the most normal sounding black metal song on the album with a nod or two towards some thrash riffing. I Hold Your Light is some more Arcturus like avante-garde complete with swirling guitar lines and melancholic vocal melodies. The highlight though comes buried deep at the end of the album in the superb A Sutra of Wounds. What should sound like whiny teen angst is transformed through some classy songwriting into an engaging and uniquely catchy atmospheric extreme metal song.

The musicianship is top notch right through. Andy McIvor’s guitar playing is terrific and he’s totally at home playing gentle melancholic melodies, vaguely dissonant black metal riffs or even taking off on an odd lead now and then. The rhythm section of Vicotnik and Erlandsson is superb. Vicotnik’s bass lines especially, add a whole new dimension to the music. Khvost has this tendency to go slightly off in his clean sung parts, particularly on Jesus Fever but the vocals through much of this album are top class.

There really isn’t a bad song on Resplendent Grotesque. The music for the most part is sort of like Arcturus jamming with Katatonia with Ihsahn from Emperor lurking somewhere in the background and providing songwriting tips while Pink Floyd was playing constantly in the background. However, in spite of the influences or maybe because of them, Code doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. Resplendent Grotesque is an original piece of work filled to the brim with terrific songs and highly recommended for anybody with an interest in extreme metal.

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