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  • Writer's pictureMario

The Lobby | PORTRAYAL OF GUILT - DEVIL MUSIC (2023)



Not a nanosecond is wasted when entering One Last Taste of Heaven, with a rather excellent first stint of post-sacrificial hellbound bonanza complete with an emblematic unrelenting malaise within black metal. It’s got a hell of a sophisticated hi-hat and riff, properly asserting an arresting crunch and crack of both spirit and tone. Although it is often keen to introduce a hilariously chagrin-inducing double kick pedal which is as effective as a wet handkerchief, and the pace can be a bit flip-floppity, it remains generally sound as an opening taste, kept secure with arable texture and very little unnecessary noise pollutants. Welcome to Devil Music (2023, Run for Cover).


With Untitled, the story is slightly different. Although the themes remain intact, we have more of a slumber and slur of a track that eventually spirals into formation and savage incarnation. Within such a limbering process, we’ll find that there’s a lot of growl and not nearly enough bite. But you know what’s the good news? Those drums don’t have such neutering exemptions. Rather, they’ve got as much vicious demeanour and capability as ever, with a slightly more uncommon function that moves like a shambled shuffling shanty shit-for-brains that never learned to spell, but sure knew how to hammer. That’s an advantage. Listen to that delectable hi-hat work. When the song speeds up, the guitar finally ups the ante too, providing only a sliver more of exhilaration that still absolves any incessant trivialities from the equation (even if it’s not by much). Just to further up the ante, you’ve got the extra dose of speed actually working to a song’s favour, and even though the ending cuts off far too uncomfortably, there’s a much grander sense of completion at hand. See, there’s a more orchestrated booklet at hand here, a more optimized approach to granting the listener a more powerful descent into hell, despite the totality of it feeling a stack more awkward than need be.


Ever had a real good fuckin’ toast? Because if you’ve witnessed that kind of a chic crunch, the crunch at very literal Burning Hand ought to do similar a trick. This isn’t the type of crunch that’ll crush you to smidgens, but it sure will scratch your head like a quizzical son-of-an-itch. It’s another series of avant-black-metal goodie bag brouhahas with a good dosage of occasionally technical difficulties. I mean, look at that production. When the song wants to get loud (Which may be often, but let’s interpret the loud as louder than usual), the production doesn’t just wash it, it waterboards the poor sap. It’s as bad a neutering process as they’ve assigned to those Untitled drums. It may stop the noise, but it doesn’t stop the intensity - especially from the double-kick. Sure, it tends to chop up the whole song into splices within a production like this, but it’s still a way to deliver slugs and punches unto the assumed titanium cranium courtesy of Beveridge. They even let another layer of guitar steal the metaphorical show later down the song’s lifespan. The calm within this storm just doesn’t work, though. It leaves the bonework exposed to winds that could whisk it all away and show nothing but the musicians behind the work: it’s like the failed illusions of a bad film editor.


The immediate start of Where Angels Come to Die is very much welcome (Though the fucking production isn’t helping anything), and one of the best strengths of this song come within the first vocals: the reverb adds an unending quantity of power to the voice o’ Matt King. Matter of fact, these vocals tend to be the backbone of this song when it comes to a consistency in quality, or at least in the first stint. It can be argued that such a voice is eventually succeeded by that utter crackdown back into pure narrow marrow mallet mashing and moshing provided from this crackdown that occurs later into the song (Which may very well be one of the finest moments on the metal side of the album). It’s as if the power of the drums were inherited by the vocals, given how the snare just felt all over the place, scrambling for any sense of security in the midst of Crayolan pandemonium. But, but, but! The vocals aren’t invincible. You hear those lower growls that are present during that clattering breakdown-into-double entourage? Frankly, it borders on hilarious. Like watching a really good impressionist take over the role with their tongue poking a hole through their cheek. The whispers that occur are almost as embarrassing.


Devil Music, the title track, is the longest composition here. This song happens to have the best guitar work on the album, with riffs as consistent as the batter of kick-ass pancakes. This time, the main fault is supplied by the structure: The first break doesn’t feel earned, the swell back into action is accompanied with generic cavalcades in the scope of black metal, the production tarnishes the potential for any additional guitar layering to be powerful, and the song fades away in lame lament. The structure ain’t all shit’s creek, however. When the song breaks down and grinds itself into grain, it feels much more satisfying and deserved, and those growls into the brain and pounds into the freezing and bitter pavement only further supply sufficient aggression and fervour. This ain’t a fucking garlic press, this is a hammer the size of a German shepherd’s inheritance. I’ll let you figure that one out.


See, that’s the metal side of the album. Now we’ve got a chamber segment where these songs are redefined in a realm divorced from metal. Maybe it’s to show how well these black metal compositions bode when a slightly stronger classical tinge is involved. Hilariously, they kept the same vocal style. Oh, and even more hilariously, the instrumentation takes even longer and is even sloppier in switching paces. Each song is split into Roman numbers and then their titles, rather than their original titles. There’s a touch more totalism involved, although it’s a bit more faint than one can expect.


Look, the string work in I and II are utterly hysterical, they simply just don’t belong there or haven’t nearly the tone to function properly in such a song. There’s a supposed timpani involved, but it sounds a bit more like the toms of the drum kit present in the metal side than anything else. You know, if there was a superhero movie that tried to make liking black metal one of the primary character traits of its protagonist, this would likely be the music to accompany the third act when all goes to shit until it magically doesn’t since the death of our beloved protagonist doesn’t mean extra money from sequels. See, this side shows why specific instruments accomplish specific tones, settings, atmospheres, moods, and influences much better than others. This side achieves that by demonstrating a delightfully off-the-mark attempt of providing a completely different arrangement of instruments to perform the same compositions.


IV is so tonally fucked that it transcends into the realm of novelty. This isn’t entertaining in the way that observing great fucking works is entertaining. This is entertaining in the way that looking at shitty MIDI versions of beloved songs adapted to different instruments and genres is entertaining. This time, we’ve got more of a professional malaise and endeavour behind it, which further adds to the fittingly divine comedy at hand. I did not predict the album to turn into one of the funniest listens of 2023, but I’m all here for it despite how bad it is. You gotta respect the guts on these fellas, though. They didn’t necessarily half-ass the procedure, release it on a separate EP, or anything. They slapped it on the same LP, and performed this breed of excellence in excrement without much corners being cut.


There’s this one drowned out and utterly shafted guitar audible on the right channel in V and it sounds like it was recorded within the bubble of air that a fart in the bathtub creates. This whole chaotic extravaganza of fucked is complete with vocals growling and belching:


“I want to watch you suffer

I want to feel your pain”


It doesn’t get any better. You can tell I stopped taking the album seriously when I focused on little hilarious moments instead of how it all meshes together, or the specifics of each song as a whole. I busted out laughing hearing the instruments in the “grinding down” section that Devil Music did so well. It’s the most half-assed instrumentation I have heard in a while, every single note is performed in a borderline pathetic fashion. You can’t fucking make this up, I swear. Look, I don’t care that this album isn’t that good, I beg of you to listen to Devil Music. It’s the funniest thing you’ll listen to all week if you skip the generally decent metal side of the album, I say that in complete honesty.


Score: 5/10.

Trajectory of listens past the first: Golly, I’m fuckin’ excited to find out.

Written 5/1/2023, 8:35 - 10:05 PM.

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