Posted by & filed under Features, Live Report, Music.

Devil Sold His Soul’s EP launch show

Devil Sold His Soul Empress AD Emp!re Bad Sign poster

Devil Sold His Soul, amongst all the bands that I love, are the ones I’ve seen the most. Eight times at last count, this evening was to be the somewhat premature launch show for their forthcoming Basick Records EP Belong ╪ Betray – which isn’t actually out until the middle of next month. Busy boys, I guess

Excuse time: I fully meant to catch Croydon trio Bad Sign, the opening act of this four-band bill, but I didn’t even get back into London after a week’s holiday in Norfolk until an hour before doors, so by the time I scurried down, Emp!re were just getting started.

To say their performance is engaging would be something of an understatement; not least of all because frontman Joe Green spends a no small amount of time touching members of the crowd on the face. He’s flamboyant, entertaining and likeable; the between-song banter is funny but not too try-hard. He can also walk the walk; he hits the wide range of notes he attempts – dancing all over the scales – with ease. I’m a bit jealous, to be honest.

He’s not the only one singing though; three of the other four engage in vocals, providing a nice range across the board. Meanwhile, the bass is nice and audible, and the drumming the right kind of flashy for the style of music; little flourishes here and there accenting the melodic rock.

Of the set, a couple of songs in particular certainly warrant further listens, and whilst nothing specific has wormed its way into my ears from the set, they certainly warrant further investigation. Not at all a bad way to spend 30 minutes.

Empress AD are an interesting proposition, and their set a mix of triumph and tribulation. Bassist Alex Loring is unfortunate to be plagued by problems throughout, but when he’s afforded a little breathing space, he plays his instrument like a Tyrannosaurus Rex experiencing music for the first time; he looks open-eyed and almost in shock at how good it is.

Alex’s brother Ollie also has a few problems – from where I am, his vocals aren’t very audible, which is a shame because he’s quite good. The band’s juxtaposing styles – part ISIS, part Incubus, with a bit of East Of The Wall thrown in – require some deftness, and he seems to pull off both singing and roaring well.

The heavier parts are quite satisfying; they get the crowd moving with conviction, and especially so in the final song where the audience begins clapping along to a tasty section.

But the contrast doesn’t always work. The segues between the two in particular sometimes don’t come off with the verve the rest does, and for me it stutters in places, or sections don’t feel right next to one another. It’s likeable, but not entirely, and I’m not totally sure why.

However, since checking out their latest Still Life Moving Fast, I can appreciate them a lot more, and so perhaps the technical issues accounted for more than I originally thought.

The last time I saw Devil Sold His Soul was on the Friday at Tech Fest a few months ago. An early summer evening, it was a great set all round, and even went a long way towards winning over a previously reticent Simon.

It’s not where DSHS really shine though. Club shows are without a doubt the best place to catch them, and this evening showcases just why.

A blue hue is cast over the stage for a few minutes, before warm orange is added. When even the stage at The Underworld looks this good, you know you’re in for a treat.

See, Devil are all about atmosphere, and it’s much easier to create that in a small room. Their six-person sound absolutely fills the room; Rick and Johnny’s massive chords bounce off the walls while Leks pounds away at his kit. It’s easy to miss how much his drum work accenuates the epic quality of their songs; it’s always in the right places and really pushes it to its limits.

New(ish) frontman Paul shows how perfect he is for the gig by delivering material both old and new with gusto. For me, he has ever so slightly more in his repertoire than his predecessor, although they’ve thus far side-stepped some of their earlier, more caustic material, on which Ed was so potent.

The band play both of the only tracks we’ve heard Paul on far – “Time” and “Unveiled” – and they get a really good response, but they also wheel out the big hitters like “Disappointment“, “As The Storm Unfolds” and set-closer “Hope“, in which I get a bloodied nose from the gentleman in front. This doesn’t put any kind of damper on the evening however, and I head off into the cool Camden evening anticipating one mother of a bangover.