Code - Flyblown Prince
Dark Essence Records
Progressive Black Metal
8 songs (44:03)
Release year: 2021
Dark Essence Records
Reviewed by Goat

Stepping back from the minimalist prog of 2015's Mut, UK-based Code have made yet another twist in a career already full of them. Flyblown Prince, the band's fifth full-length since originally forming in 1998 as Seasonal Code, kicks off with a blast, harsh snarls and chaotic scurrying riffs making it sound more like 1349 than the altogether too soft band we were getting used to. Sure, further listens to Mut have made this reviewer feel he was a little too harsh in his review of it, but from the reviews of other albums from the band you can tell what the preferred Code is, and it's good to hear a band experimenting with softer material and then returning to the underground, unfriendly sound that won them the plaudits originally. (Those like Norway's Shining may wish to take note rather than turn fire on their own fans...!)

Despite this welcome shift back to heaviness, the band are still operating on the fringes of the genre. Clemency and Atrophy switches more towards older DHG territory with backing electronics and whispered vocals atop a bassy morass, opening into a more 2000s Moonfoggy assault. And then the following By the Charred Stile switches things up again, post-blackened riffs almost drowning out the whimsical clean vocals that aren't a million miles away from ICS Vortex territory, although Arcturus haven't been this muscular and groovy... ever? What continually impresses about Code is that they are consistently interesting and metallic here, but also are good enough songwriters for the songs to be unique and individual, even catchy in a twisted sort of way at certain moments. Tracks never outstay their welcome, always ending leaving you wanting more, and the avant-garde structures that are easily woven in feel perfectly judged.

And even despite the experiments and variety at play, the likes of, eg, the slower-paced Marduk-gone-doomy vibe of Rat King, or the chunky meandering groove of Dread Stridulate Lodge, are still very much apparent as the work of Code as any other track thanks to the atmosphere and use of varied vocals. This is especially true of the least metal pieces here, such as the almost Current 93 neofolk vibes to From the Next Room, which operates mainly on nervous clean singing and guitar ambience, both post-rock and metallic, that repeated refrain of "it's coming through the wall" oddly creepy.

Even though the galloping black-thrash of Scolds Bridle (heavy enough to be on the band's debut) and the grandiose prog experimentalism of The Mad White Hair are the work of the same group, you can see how they fit together on an album like this thanks to the quality of the writing. And the latter piece, nearly twelve minutes long and ending the listen with a flourish, must at least be in the discussion for Code's finest achievement yet. Building from a subtle opening into a grandiose, deranged peak almost immediately and keeping the tension levels high thanks to the varied and impressive vocal performance from Wacian, it keeps your attention well throughout and ends the album on a high mark. A fine end to a fine album; this more than makes up for Mut and is in the discussion for the best record Code have released to date.

Killing Songs :
Flyblown Prince, Clemency and Atrophy, Rat King, The Mad White Hair
Goat quoted 86 / 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 - Nouveau Gloaming reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Code - Resplendent Grotesque reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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