Code - Nouveau Gloaming
Spikefarm Records
Progressive Black Metal
8 songs (53:54)
Release year: 2005
Spikefarm Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Formed as a collaboration between British and Norwegian musicians including Kvohst and Vicotnik (Dødheimsgard) and Erik Lancelot (Ulver), the oncoming new album from Code reminded me that the oddball band had a gem in its past discography. Going back past 2009's rather good Resplendent Grotesque, the début from Code turned more than a few heads when it burst onto the scene in 2005. Built upon a traditional black metal base, it was nonetheless original due to the frequent clean singing as well as the fraught, subtly sinister atmosphere, mixing progressive elements into the band's blackened morass without at all compromising on the essential darkness at the music's heart. What's more, there was an air of eccentricity to Code, from their has-no-one-else-thought-of-that band name to the songwriting itself, which is left-field enough to warrant words like 'avant-garde' being tossed around, but more than vicious and angry enough to fully deserve the black metal tag...

Digging it out eight years later, it holds up very well, from the slightly cobwebbed production which enhances the atmosphere but gives the guitars a touch of groove, to the songs themselves – at first it seems like some very strange lost Arcturus album that rejected a trip to the stars in favour of being locked in a room and left alone for too long. Opener The Cotton Optic sets the pace, something very close to a traditional black metal rumble and screeching vocalist setting you at a kind of ease, although as the track continues the sheer spitting anger of the vocals grows, and the addition of a roaring backing vocalist keeps it interesting. The following Brass Dogs marks a turn for eerier pastures, weirdly melodic as doomy pounding bass riffs chug beneath melodic guitars, and the unsettlingly unfocused clean singing/moaning is very effective, especially once you've read the bizarre and poetic lyrics.

The album continues along this darker path, the deceptively melodic opening to An Enigma in Brine soon turning cruel and almost spiteful. A Cloud-Formed Teardrop Asylum opens in pure doom tones, clean vocals and slow riffs forming a dementedly majestic echo of My Dying Bride before moving into blastbeat-strewn yet still melodic prog-tinged metal, more akin to mid-period Enslaved. A snarling, rumbling assault of a song in Aeon in Cinders comes as a complete surprise, a mid-track ambient breakdown enhancing it, and the strident Tyburn follows with the drumming upfront and almost tribal beneath the vocals. It's a kind of signifier that the darkest part of the album lays ahead, Radium's blackened rumble at one point collapsing into a chaotic industrial fervour before reforming, and the closing Ghost Formula is a bad trip in more ways than one, overlayed vocals and oddly serene backing music bringing an odd album to an odd ending.

Nouveau Gloaming isn't the sort of album that devastates you, that you simply have to play again and again, but it is unsettling and stays with you – it oddly reminds me of The Axis of Perdition, albeit where that band is a trip through the darkest, most horrific Victorian asylums, Code focus instead on the opium dens and more psychedelic terrors of a past that exists as much in our imaginations as it does in reality. There are faults to be found, not least that some experiments aren't explored enough, and that songs can drag on a little, mistaking repetition as hypnotic. Yet there's no denying that once Nouveau Gloaming has its claws in you, it's very hypnotic indeed – sit back and allow the music to wash over you, and the cover art's terrified figure seems only more fitting. Both this and the following album are excellent reasons to be excited for new music from the band, and both are more than worth a listen if you're new to the Code.

Killing Songs :
The Cotton Optic, Brass Dogs, A Cloud-Formed Teardrop Asylum, Aeon in Cinders, Radium
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Code that we have reviewed:
Code - mut reviewed by Goat and quoted 60 / 100
Code - Augur Nox reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Code - Resplendent Grotesque reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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