The Devil's Blood
The Thousandfold Epicentre

Ghost may be snagging all the headlines in this whole retro ‘70s occult/Satanic revival thing that’s been going on (which also includes Blood Ceremony, Jex Thoth, Year of the Goat; call it the NWOSHM if you like), but when I think of mysterious Dutch act The Devil’s Blood, I recall the immortal words of Keyser Soze: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Now of course, those of us who have been following this band know full well that they exist – and we know, because chances are, they haven’t left our music players for very long. (Come, Reap, the band’s 2008 EP, has been played weekly in my car for the entirety of 2011).  But given that the band doesn’t actively solicit interviews or media attention, many of you may not be initiated into the cult.

That’s all about to change with the release of the band’s second LP, and their first to receive widespread US distro, courtesy of Metal Blade. And that’s a very, very good thing, because this is one of the most exciting and freshest acts out there today – even as they take most of their inspiration from bands that played their own carpeted, candlelit stages over 40 years ago.

Basically, The Devil’s Blood sounds like Jefferson Airplane crossed with early Judas Priest, playing a secret gig at some tony San Francisco Victorian in the early ‘70s, where all sorts of occult goings-on may or may not be happening in the cellar. (Invitations only, of course.) “Hotel California,” Anton LaVey, Rosemary’s Baby – the band doesn’t mention any of these Satanic pop-culture touchpoints in their lush, poetic lyrics, but they conjure up that same freaky time period nonetheless, producing a heady, heavy sense of nostalgia swirling with smoke and visions.

That psychedelic nostalgia is more opulent and ambitious than ever on The Thousandfold Epicentre, which already tops the previous album with the incredible opener, “On the Wings of Gloria.”  Smoky, sultry female croons, astral and shimmery melodies, a propulsive bassline and tribal drumming make this track sound like an erotic, Satanic showstopper from the anti-Summer of Love version of Hair. The first half climbs upwards with mysterious verses, yearning and reaching towards some dark and shrouded veil, and then bam! – you peak and cross over into glorious, colorful epiphany, urged on by chanting male choirs like the charged-up onlookers at some orgiastic ritual. This isn’t just psychedelic rock, this isn’t just metal – this is drama, and it’s honest and serious and Artistic with a capital fucking A.

Later on, the album peaks again with a second showpiece, the smoldering, monstrous and sensual “Cruel Lover.” Just listen to these lyrics: “I am a shadow moving with shadows/I am blood and piss, coming in waves/I am Isaiah’s nightmare, brought into flesh now/I am the sword and the whip, the pleasure of slaves.” That passage alone tells you more about the character and mystery of this song than any of my descriptions could (but in case you want one: galloping rhythms, slamming piano and a soaring, chanteuse/priestess vocal performance, like Priest‘s cover of “Diamonds and Rust” turned into obsidian and blood.) It’s not just one of the best tracks that the band has ever done, I think it’s one of 2011’s best, period.

The band does rockers as well as they do epics, and there are plenty of those here as well. “Die the Death” is jangly and energetic, with vibrato vocals that are more toned-down than they were on previous album The Time of No Time Evermore. The “la-la-la-la” refrain throughout is also a nice, subversive nod to late ‘60s folk. “She,” the follow-up to “Cruel Lover,” is another favorite. It’s a frisky, shambling monster, bristling with claws and hooks, and good luck getting that chorus out of your head. Later in the album, “Fire Burning” starts with pulsing, pounding organs, then turns into the groovy soundtrack to a midnight bonfire beach party where the goat is loose and the girls are looser. These are all undoubtedly psychedelic as well, but not as showy as “Cruel Lover” or “Gloria” – and that’s fine, since it’s all executed with the same focused intensity and seriousness.

And then there are the really deep, psychedelic tracks, and they’ve all been saved for the end of the album in one giant three-part finale. “Everlasting Saturnalia” is memorable simply because it’s so soft and muted; the reverential hush at the end of the party as the candles flicker low. It’s the perfect lull before a huge, triumphant and terrifying closer in “The Madness of Serpents.”

Well, at least it starts that way, with a doomy, pounding tempo, choral vocals and swirling melodies. By midpoint, it settles down for a tripped-out interlude, and then briefly climbs back to the same heights as its opening minutes. It’s certainly got its moments of menace, but it’s not as bombastic or inspiring as the album opener “On the Wings of Gloria.” And although this would be a fine place to end the album, instead we glide into “Feverdance,” which is essentially 15 minutes of folksy phantasmagoria. It’s got a lovely, brooding sense of mystery, but it’s way too long for a coda. And although eventually it whips itself into a martial, frantic tempo, that too seems to go nowhere in the album’s closing minutes.

I would have far preferred The Thousandfold Epicentre to end with one final, awe-inspiring crescendo – a smokebomb that masks the magician’s disappearance from the stage. Perhaps The Devil’s Blood was going for more of a quiet, mystical revelation, but compared to a massive and far more listenable closer like “Voodoo Dust” off of Come, Reap, I think the final act of The Thousandfold Epicentre is a letdown. As for the rest of the party, though – it’s well-worth the entry fee.

If you’re new to The Devil’s Blood, The Thousandfold Epicentre is a great place to start, though I would still recommend Come, Reap as the best example of the band’s work (and to be fair, it’s a bit easier to be consistently excellent when you’re only filling an EP). Still, there’s no denying that this is one of the classiest, most honest and attention-worthy bands in hard music today, and for my money, the best example of the burgeoning NWOSHM scene.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
January 18th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Killer write up, Jordan ! You nailed my thoughts on this album perfectly. You really, REALLY owe it to yourself to get the LP version of this album, if only for the absolutely mind blowingly amazing artwork. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and is in a class all it’s own.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    if only I owned a record player… I’m hoping the CD, or perhaps a deluxe version, contains some of that artwork (which is currently my desktop background)


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    however… I just ordered this deluxe Book Pack edition of the CD, which looks amazing. Van Records even made a nifty trailer of it: http://youtu.be/LAywb69KOuE


  4. Commented by: demise

    Reminds me more of coven ( who truly brought the devils horns to metal,not that loser lyeing douchebag dio) crossed with some pentagram.


  5. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    I still like Ghost better…


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