Extreme metal is already a niche unto itself, laden with sub-genres upon sub-genres. Yet, even by extreme metal’s obscure standards, depressive deathcore solo projects by transgender artists, is probably about as specific as the genre is likely to get and, if Codex Omega is anything to go by, the world could do with a few more of them.
The project is the work of North Carolinian death metal vocalist/multi-insrumentalist/programmer Miira Cide, who also records and produces all of its releases. It’s also an intensely personal project, dealing – often extremely bluntly – with Mirra’s experiences with depression and her experiences as a transgender woman. Although the explanations supplied by Mirra for each of the project’s releases on its bandcamp page are often self-depricating and darkly humorous, the lyrics themselves can get pretty confronting at times (see songs such as “Scars” or “Lullaby for the Unborn”). In a genre so obsessed with posturing and facade, Miira’s frankness and genuine confrontation with the darker sides of existence is a welcome refreshment. Oh and – to be frank myself – the music fucking slams.
The standout of Codex Obscura’s discography so far, and probably the best place to start is the punched-up, remaster of their first full-length record Holy Teachings of Self Defeat (2016). The album is a lot more straight-forward than a lot of their later material, although is still set apart from the usual deathcore fare due to its sheer power and expert construction. Opener “Our Lord is One of War” brings to mind Dum Spiro Spero (2011) era Dir En Grey, along with the kind of added brutality you might expect from the likes of Disfiguring the Goddess or early Carnifex, while a track like “Virus” – especially in its updated form – has more in common with modern Thy Art is Murder and just as destructive.
The album’s attack on religion is certainly nothing new in the world of extreme metal. Its specific focus on how Christianity embeds guilt among society and projects shame upon those who don’t fit its specific mould – which comes across particularly on tracks like” The Guilt Delusion” and “Burden” – is far more pointed than the genre’s usually blunt and stunted “fuck God” approach. Although Codex Omega is a project defined by its depressive outlook, rather than wallow in her sorrows, like most other depressive metal projects tend to do, Miira takes all her anxieties and projects them violently outward, with the results being both cathartic and exhilarating.
Later releases like 2017’s Miira, which deals directly with Miira’s transition, and the Cardiac EP (which also received a remaster in 2018), which was written “in the wake of some very serious depression”, takes more of an experimental and scattershot approach. The former has a bit more of a desperate metalcore sound to it, especially among its later moments, in the vein of of Ithaca or SeeYouSpaceCowboy, or even Rolo Tomassi – if the pretty parts were replaced with pig squeals and beatdowns – while the latter borders on avant-garde grind.
Codex Obscura’s strongest material, however, is probably the selection of singles from the project’s forthcoming third album Until Death. All of the tracks released so far signal a return to the more conventional brutal deathcore sound of the project’s origins, but with an updated sound and more of a brooding sensibility. The lyrics also appear to be abstract, although the music is no less visceral; more so if anything, due in no small part to the hollowed out snare sound, which sounds like a bunch of depth charges constantly going off in the background.
The most recent offering, “Feral in Abstract” might also be the strongest yet. The track, which also features guest vocals from artists Ikemefuna and Topestchandler (who I can’t seem to find out anything about?), is a much faster and involved song than anything else in Codex Obscura’s catalogue, which perhaps leans more toward brutal tech death than deathcore. Until Death, has apparently been in the works for a while, but if all of it ends up being this good, I’m happy to wait as long as it takes, and more than happy to spend the time in the lead up to its release getting better antiquated with their discography.