Review Summary: Brief, and casual aquatic-horror tech death.
Devil’s Reef is a fresh-new tech death band from Frederick Maryland who have now put out their debut album Chosen by the Sea. This album caught my attention by its interestingly aquatic name, balancing wholesome marine life with Satan. Topped off with an admittedly creative band logo as well as a beautifully designed album cover. It’s just so vibrant and colorful. And on top of this, it's combined with one of my favorite literary themes: cosmic horror. “Just my cup of tea”, I naturally said to myself as I admire all of their aesthetic design elements regarding the band’s appearance.
Little to say, the album as a whole is a bit of a mixed bag. As much as I know that this is only the band’s debut album, I was expecting more from them. Especially with how much effort is put into their visual aesthetic. But what we are ultimately given in the music of Chosen by the Sea is an adequate reinterpretation of what fans of technical death metal have heard many times before from artists that do it better.
What this album does well is that it gets its message across quickly and succinctly. The band knows what their best material is, and they are able to let it shine without mucking it up. For example, some of their best riffs are isolated at the beginning of songs like “Chosen by the Sea” or “Cosmic Horror” and they do well to pump us up for each new section of music. For variety’s sake, there are also a couple of acoustic passages on the songs “Servant of the Devourer” and “Summoning the Serpents” which do add to the flow of the album. And from what I can tell, the band’s songwriting is a bit more progressive in the second half of the album to contrast the punchier and more energetic first half.
This is partly where Devil’s Reef fails to meet expectations. That for a band attempting some progressive elements in their songwriting, they did not venture far at all. In fact, most of the songs are very derivative and at times, even boring. For a band that can be given a progressive label, it’s very simple, heck, even for a tech-death album, this is very simple. What Devil’s Reef offer is a sort of colorful but dumbed down version of Revocation’s style of technical death metal. In essence, the band is not as technical, not as experimental, and not as creative as other tech death bands you might find in the mainstream.
However, that is not at all to say they do not have potential. On the contrary, some of the things they did on this album were very good. They know how to write good riffs, they know how to get their point across in a timely fashion, and they have good instrumental harmony. They also have a strange, but effective way of conveying that “under the sea” vibe through tech death that I can’t quite put my finger on. Not a bad starting point, but they have a long way to go. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, of course, give them a listen.