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When the first song from Code's new album Augur Nox debuted a few weeks ago, our indefatigable editor rightly explained that new singer Wacian was stepping into massive shoes by replacing the strident, charismatic voice of Kvohst. Rather than slink into timidity or define a singularly different vocal approach for Code, however, Wacian's vocals opt for a bolder option: damn the comparison by inviting it openly. That is, where Kvohst's vocals were dramatic and flexible, Wacian throws himself into fits of sheer theatricality and taut shifts from clean voice to rough bellow.

On the whole, Augur Nox feels like the most expansive, internally diverse Code album to date, and "Becoming Host" offers a brief window into its profusion of sounds. Aort's guitars mostly chug and arpeggio their way through figures of menacing restraint. The music remains black metal, perhaps more spiritually than sonically, but Code has also blossomed into an unshackled progressive force. In this way, they evoke other avant-garde black metal watersheds: Borknagar, Solefald, Arcturus, and so on.

The Arcturus comparison is intentional, because Wacian frequently sounds like a dead ringer for ICS Vortex. This makes sense, given how Code has transformed into the seemingly natural successor to both Arcturus's Sideshow Symphonies and Dodheimsgard's underrated Supervillain Outcast (on which Kvohst again provided lead vocals). Code balances the smooth with the jagged and the familiar with the alien through a series of elegant contortions.

In that way, "Becoming Host" is something of an avant-garde black metal cipher. Does it still sound bold and new? Do you recoil at a recitation of hard-won past progressions? Or, is there a third way: hear the new born out of the old which is always new in younger hands. The song closes with a delectable guitar solo and a choir of voices overlaid on voices. Code is saying, "We can sound like this, and this, and this."

They aren't wrong. It also bears mentioning that "Becoming Host" is one of Augur Nox's most straight-forward songs. Don't spurn that kind of generosity. You can preorder Augur Nox, which comes out on November 29th, from Agonia Records.

— Dan Lawrence

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