Review Summary: In their second album, The Devil’s Blood further expand on both their “simple” and “diverse” aspect of their occult rock approach, with controversial results.
Should one care to examine the birth of musical trends and their revivals through the course of the 20th and the 21st century, it will be clear that there has always been a discrete temporal lag between their critical mass assumption and their final embrace by the major labels. The revival of ’70s occult rock during the second half of the ‘00s is no exception. The simultaneous and ever-strengthening activities of new bands, namely Witchcraft, Graveyard and Ghost and the restart of critically acclaimed veterans such as Pentagram, were enough to attract the attention of major labels. The ever-growing dynamics of this revival through the live festivals, the fan talk at both the internet, the physical-world underground and most importantly the record sales (in proportion with the bands’ promotion magnitude that is), could not be further overlooked. Dutch occult rockers, The Devil’s Blood orbited within a similar trajectory with respect to the aforementioned bands. Their first EP and full-length had received worthy praise within the underground and beyond, despite the fact that they were issued by small underground labels. Metal Blade, a label known to make quality additions to its roster from time to time (see Yob), offered them a record deal and in result, The Devil’s Blood are releasing their new album The Thousandfold Epicentre
in both banks of the Atlantic Ocean, an album that shows the band further differentiating itself with respect to its prior work, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
In their excellent debut full-length The Time of No Time Evermore
, The Devil’s Blood made an admirable yet restrained attempt in enriching their superb, monolithic and occult ‘70s rock obsessions with elements from prog rock or the musical legacy of soundtrack composers, such as Ennio Morricone. The new album has certainly more to give in that direction. However, this expansion feels half-finished for several reasons. To begin with, the diverse/prog rock songs do not share the same level of quality. While The Devil’s Blood prove repeatedly that they can craft superb, adventurous and OCCULT rock music within their distinct style (“On The Wings of Gloria”), the remaining portion of their adventurous music feels disjointed and abstract, not always in a good sense. The last three songs of the album feel more like highly intriguing and temporally dragging psychedelic interludes than actual songs in succeeding each other. During listening, a conviction arises in that each one of them will eventually lead to either a proper song (first two tracks of the album) or to the more interesting/diverse remainder of the same track, however neither of the aforementioned takes place. This is undeniably evident in the last song of the album, “Feverdance”, an epic and psychedelic semi-instrumental, heavily influenced from the works of soundtrack composers such as Ennio Morricone. It starts with acoustic guitars and the soothing ritual vocals of The Mouth of Satan, only to climax the initial song melody to nowhere with the aid of the traditional rock instrumentation. In general, the vocals from The Mouth of Satan are again one of the band’s stronger calling cards, if not the strongest.
Although it is evident that The Devil’s Blood have given serious focus in further developing the adventurous part of the music, they don’t leave their superb rock n’ roll drive idle. The other half of the album consists of songs to boogie and sing along to, while praising the name of Satan and getting drunk a huge pint of the Devil’s blood wine. The problem is that half of these songs (“Die the Death” and “Within the Charnel House of Love”) sound terribly formulaic, even for the kind of rock the band deals with. Accounting for both faces of the band, the album is disjointed with respect to the song succeeding sequence as well. Instead of homogeneously dividing the two faces of their music within the album, The Devil’s Blood decided to show a fraction of their diverse side at the beginning of the album (“On the Wings of Gloria)” and leave the remainder for the end. What is most embarrassing is that the aforementioned track leaves its place to “Die the Death” and “Within the Charnel House of Love”, two of the most dull rock n’ roll songs of the album. Frankly, little usefulness stems from the tracks’ lineup, as the latter lacks in cohesion and in effect, subtracts strength from both sides of the band. However, it should be stressed that despite the aforementioned hiccups in the music and overall structure, the album’s final merit justifies the effort invested in digging deep into it.
In closing, on their second album The Devil’s Blood further evolve in favor of progress, yet this change feels incomplete in both its artistic and technical context. This album seems more of a promise for greater things to come, than an actual step forward. Hopefully, their next album will provide a closure to the open affairs this one is projecting towards the future.