It’s a wondrous and baffling feeling that comes over you when you’re truly moved by something. When something…anything…has such a powerful force that even the most stubborn of minds and hardened of hearts can’t help but feel the rush that has just flowed throughout their entire being and it is then that they realize the gravity of what’s taken place. Generally speaking, this comes from an act performed by another, yet even this can entail an unlimited array of what that could mean. One such manner in which the resting heart and mind receives this ignition of unfettered emotion is through an artform. Art, in its vastly various entities can inspire with a mere a picture or spoken word, and the affects can be ever lasting. This couldn’t be any more apparent or true when it specifically comes to the artform of music. A combination of words and sounds that can instill the most subtle nuances of any emotion to the most intense. But it takes a special set of those attributes to definitively count as being a ‘moving’ piece which subsequently just acts as ‘that song that makes me wanna rock out’. I can’t/won’t speak for anyone else, but this doesn’t happen to me as often as I’d like or hope for. I often find music that I thoroughly enjoy and even much that does drive a larger passion for what the music is intending to convey, albeit the buck stops there in most cases. For the first time in quite a while I received an album, and if I were to say that I had been anticipating this release greatly, I’d actually be putting it unfathomably lightly. Seeing the album cover alone months prior had already roused an extraordinary sense of hope and elation for what was to come (regardless of the record’s title…). The picture used for the album (taken by one of its very own members) engendered a feeling of beauty and peace, while at the same time it imparted a notion of sadness or despair. This all before even personally hearing a song from the upcoming album, which would thankfully come shortly after. The first reintroduction to a band I had only first heard of around 2014 would be called “Beyond Reach” and it would come from a band which could only be referred to as the kings of ambient and emotional metalcore/post hardcore (in reality, the sheer amount of sub genres that could apply to this band are endless), Devil Sold His Soul. A song about the death of someone who was a very close loved one and had a deep affect, and what that means for those of us left living afterwards and the strife of trying to learn what coping with such a loss actually even means. A fitting first single coming from an album entitled Loss. During the writing process for Loss members of the group experienced (quite sadly) a fair number of deaths which in the end became a large contributing factor to what was written about and how the accompanying instrumentals would sound. But the album also deals with what comes after death, such as grief and the effects all of it can have on our mental wellbeing. An all-encompassing set of songs that deal with the epicenter of what loss means and all that accompanies it afterwards. This is most assuredly something that none of us are a stranger to, and part of the intention of the album is to not only touch on the death of those closest to us, but also the loss of a relationship or the loss of who you once were mentally and the causes of what broke that down. This is an album that every listener will be able to find at least some sort of connection to, and perhaps as the band hopes, the songs will act as a tool to help each and every fan looking for some sort of guidance or (metaphorically speaking) a shoulder to lean on.
Genre: Progressive Metalcore | Ambient Metalcore | Post Metalcore
Label: Nuclear Blast
FLOW / LONGEVITY / ORIGINALITY
Loss is meant to act as a tool of catharsis for both the band and its fans. For the listeners it is intended that you find a personal connection to anything on the record and use that as a way to let out perhaps what you couldn’t before, and the manner in which the album plays out from the first note of “Ardour” to the very last rolling wave on “Loss” (you’ll see what I mean soon enough…) is as if the record was a helping-healing kit for the broken hearted. The softer, more somber moments of songs like “Witness Marks” or “Tateishi” roll effortlessly into the chaotic, relentless onslaughts of songs like “Burdened” or “The Narcissist”. The feeling of grief and the toll it can take on our mental state can be crushingly devastating, and our emotions spiral out of control just like (yes, I know it’s a heavily used, heavy handed metaphor…) a rollercoaster. The pattern of the songs on Loss, whether done intentionally or not, mirror this affect exquisitely. And to close the album out with a song like “Loss” which until its final moments when a rolling and thunderous drum begins and the full band is brought into the fold, is mostly comprised of the dual vocalists playing their emotional dance off one another over a slow and haunting piano melody and the odd melancholic plucked guitar note, really brings the focus of the album home and makes its impact all the more potent.
The stay power of an album such as “Loss” is almost indescribable for a multitude of reasons. The simplest being that it is some of the greatest music I have heard in any core genre aside from perhaps another band or two in years, and even after the insane amount of listens I’ve put this record through I find a new reason (or fifty) to fall in love with it all over again. The more…infinite answer is that some form of loss will rear its ugly head in our lives again and again. Regardless of the fact that there are other ways of dealing with such things, having music like this as yet another aid in battling the demons will always be a welcome addition to my mental health’s weapons room. Plus, did I mention it’s just epically stunning music? “Ardour”, which is one of my personal favorites on the album (one of…out of ten…) is one of the most ethereal and sonically soaring core-related songs I have ever heard. Mentally I was placed at the mountain peak from the album cover. I was sitting atop the snow landscapes looking out over all the beauty below and in that moment all of my fears and sadness was gone.
Originality, as I’ve stated in a previous review, is always a notion I have fun playing with. What sounds like a one-off and unique to be could be vastly different from what any of you feel. BUT I do feel that Devil Sold His Soul have a way in which their stylistic mannerisms and ways in which they create their music belongs to no one but them. Yes, there are without a doubt some aspects that might seem slightly familiar when in comparison with other bands, but the end result is far from almost any other music out there these days. The combination of ambience paired with the erratically shifting time signatures and capped off with the surprising moments of sheer brutality all come together to unfold something which is truly original in its own right.
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
At one time Devil Sold His Soul was a one vocalist fronted band. Starting out with Ed Gibbs who would later part ways with the band in early 2013, later adding Paul Green as their singer/screamer with an ep in 2014 and later a single in 2016. But with the new release, for the first time ever, Devil Sold His Soul is now a band with dual vocalists. Admittedly upon reading about this a while back I was a bit skeptical. Setting aside something obvious like Linkin Park, I have actually never been immensely fond of this situation. For my own personal tastes, I often find that the two vocalists parry well off one another and even more often absolutely do not harmonize well, thus ruining the music for me as a whole. This could not be further from the fact with Devil Sold His Soul and Loss. In fact, I think it’s one of the many factors that adds that little something extra to this record that would be amiss otherwise. When it comes to clean vocals, Ed Gibbs’ higher register plays off of Paul Green’s lower tones in harmonious perfection. This could not be more abundantly clear than on songs like “Loss” where almost each line goes round for round with the two singers, or on a song such as “But Not Forgotten” where Gibbs takes the helm during the verses and Green steps up for the choruses. The dynamics just create a stirring sense of emotion and never leave the listener feeling as if they’ve heard the same thing twice. Perhaps where the two vocalists varying screams are on best display is with the second single, “The Narcissist”. Assuredly the most in your face furious song on the entire album Gibbs and Green scathing line for ferocious spout ripping through the listeners speaker (and if you’re the antagonist of said song, straight through your entire core). The screams are where I find that Gibbs and Green have the most in common. I assume this COULD be the case due to when Gibbs left, the group wanted to find someone that had a style of their own but possibly was similar enough that it still made the listener feel comfortable. But thankfully they really do sound different enough giving the listener full ability to tell who is who. Gibbs has a straighter forward scream which at times can almost sound a touch throatier, whereas Gibbs has moments where due to what one could only assume is attempting to emulate the rawest and most pure emotion, drops the end of screams to a cleaner tone, or starts out in the opposite manner. Regardless of each singer’s personal talents, you could not find anyone else who would be more perfect for the sound of Devil Sold His Soul.
In Japan, there is a stone monument that is referred to as ‘Tateishi-Sama’ that is worshipped by its inhabitants. ‘Tateishi’ means ‘Standing Stone’. It is believed these standing stones have the power to heal and protect. THIS is exactly the feeling that enveloped my entire being throughout the song “Tateishi” on Loss. The song begins with a tone, that most other bands might create using some form of technology, that feels as if arms are wrapping around your complete being, protecting you from all of the sadness, pain, and gloom created from whatever may be harming your wellbeing. When the drums, bass and second guitar kick in, there is a sense of uplifting relief and a sense of knowledge instilled, letting you know that you can face any hurt or torment head on and you will come out on top. YOU will be the standing stone that face down its oppression and will still be standing there in the end. Battered and bruised, but ready and wanting to live another day. This is what Devil Sold His Soul are able to manifest within the hearts and minds of their listeners with their musicianship alone. They create landscapes and guardians of the soul, through a splash of the cymbal or pluck of the bass string. On the opening verse of “Signal Fire” they are somehow able to create a sound which upon first listen would seem as if it’s being played by stringed instrument typically left to a symphony, where in truth it’s coming from Richard Chapple and Jonny Renshaw, the two astoundingly talented guitarists for the group. On “Burdened” and “Ardour” one might wonder if drummer, Alex Wood’s arms and legs are about to fall off due to the insane intensity with which he plays. All of the instrumentals on Loss or thoughtful and strategic and convey emotion before a word has ever been sung.
COMPOSITION / PRODUCTION
It must be an incomprehensible ordeal when attempting to create something that hits so close to your personal home, yet you hope will resonate with countless others. You want to devise something which means everything to you, but you hope will mean anything to someone else. This is abundantly apparent on every single track of Loss. Each note, each word was never once simply tossed into the mix with a second thought or a pragmatic breakdown of what worked and what didn’t. Take into consideration as well, that when the band set out to manifest this masterpiece, they more than likely had a different game plan and what that may have resulted in, in mind. None of it was easy I’m sure, but every single moment paid off in spades. Loss without a doubt is one of the most well written albums in every single way that I have ever heard.
…And luckily the production value follows suit. The group’s music could be aptly described as cinematic, and without the most clean and crisp level of production, that fact would be forever lost in the ether. That would make the heartfelt impact of what the band was hoping their music would convey fall on deaf ears so to speak. When the sung words hit your ears with static and each note strikes a chord with your heart even with the faintest of sounds, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
I have been greatly moved by Devil Sold His Soul and their epic creation, Loss. I would be lying if I told you it hadn’t stirred up emotions in me, I had long kept in the depths of the blackest parts of my heart. I’d REALLY be lying if I told you there wasn’t times that this music hadn’t possibly brought a tear to my eye. This album and its songs found a way to break past any emotional barriers I even subconsciously had defending my heart and let them out for the world to see. There was a sense of relief afterwards and in that moment, I knew this band had created something monumental that I hope others take notice of. Everything about this album was thoughtfully and tactfully done. Two words come to mind that typically would not be synonymous with music in the core world: beautiful and graceful. I assure you these two words are perfectly apt descriptions of not only what you’ll hear but what you will feel curing and afterwards. It’s been a long time coming, but THIS is the album this band was always meant to create, and I can only imagine what else is in store for these titans of ambient and emotional metal. I can tell you that I for one will be along for the ride every step of the way.