Onstage, Uada looks like Ringwraiths. One of Portland's most promising extreme music exports in recent years, the four-piece performs with their faces shrouded by black hoods, ripping through maelstroms of swirling, melodic black metal.
"It is extremely important to eclipse ourselves in physical representation," says the band, who responded as a hive mind over email. "We believe this allows the music to speak for itself and take away any human persona that could interfere with the art itself."
The band came fully formed, seemingly out of nowhere, with their tight 2016 debut, Devoid of Light. Last month's follow-up, Cult of a Dying Sun, takes their epic sound to more expansive places.
Uada includes frontman Jake Superchi, guitarist James Sloan, drummer Josiah Babcock and bassist Ed Halpin. But the band prefers to lead with their collective identity. Paradoxically, the central tenet of that group image is anonymity for the sake of ego death. The band claims its shrouded identities onstage are a message against the "false image, ego and clichés" that have become prevalent in black metal, especially in the U.S.—face paint, headbanging and theatrical vocalists.
"The approach that we take with this band is an honest one," they write. "It is everything felt and nothing hindered for the sake of acceptance, ego, morality, vanity."
Still, remaining faceless could be considered a gimmick of its own. Performing in black T-shirts would arguably be less of a distraction, and as far as honesty goes, who walks around in a black hood all the time?
But showmanship is integral to black metal, whether it's excessive fog machines, occult symbolism or a little pig's blood to douse the audience. With its otherworldly sounds and incomprehensible lyrics, maybe the genre is best served faceless.
Regardless, it's undeniable that Uada's music rocks. Cult of a Dying Sun is full of gnarled guitars and driving blast beats. Pummeling black metal is met with stick-to-your-ribs rock riffs and stark, clean passages that feel like a sharp relief.
Besides, it's not that Uada's music is impersonal. "Cult of a Dying Sun is an album about reflection. Of oneself, others, society, and the current state of existence," writes the band. "In the times of the writing this album, there was a lot of negativity surrounding us as well as spawning from within."
Though the album's lyrics are largely incomprehensible, all of that drama comes through in Cult of a Dying Sun's embattled melodies and wildly varied song structures. Like the best black metal, you don't have to fully understand it to feel it.
"Cathartic is really a perfect word to use here," writes the band. "Music is meant to be a release as [much as] it is a guide or teacher."
SEE IT: Uada plays Tonic Lounge, 3100 NE Sandy Blvd., with Wolvhammer, the Black Moriah, and Barren Altar, on Sunday, July 1. 9 pm. $10 advance, $13 day of show. 21+.