Devil Sold His Soul
Belong ╪ Betray
17th November 2014 – Basick Records
I first came across Devil Sold His Soul in my first year at uni – specifically right at the beginning, so we were edging into autumn as the dark, ambient tones of A Fragile Hope hammered their way into my brain. It was constantly on repeat until at least Christmas, and for much of the following year too. It grabbed me in a way that’s hard to put into words -
Ever since, the gloomier months have been prime DSHS time. Their records have generally been released towards the middle of the year, but have crept ever closer to autumn ever since their debut album. Now, as we approach the shortest day, we’ve the latest offering from the six-piece - Belong ╪ Betray – but something of a new direction.
The band’s long-serving vocalist departed early last year, and this is the first effort from them since The Arusha Accord frontman Paul Green joined. He is an absolute highlight of the EP, and the cherry on top of an already accomplished instrumental outfit. What’s interesting is that there are places where he deliberately pays homage to previous vocalist Ed Gibbs – the change in force and timbre of his screams mid-word was one of my favourite things about Gibbs’ style, and it’s nice to see the style utilised as some kind of continuity – but from the very outset, he makes his own mark. The vocals on “Devastator” are absolutely immense; full of emotion and force, but delicate when need be. They match the effortless majesty of the music – something the band have made their forte over the years.
As ever, there’s nothing particularly fussy about what the quintet of musicians do: it’s not hugely technical – no constantly changing time signatures or fretboard histrionics here – but it always packs a huge punch. Drummer Leks makes every thunderous beat and cymbal crash count, guitarists Johnny and Richard wrench out gut-blasting chords, and bassist Jozef underpins everything, adding a humming depth to it all. Moreover, in combination with Green’s soaring vocals and lyrical nous, there’s also an element of catchiness; choruses from “Time” , “Unveiled” and “Devastator” are absolute earworms, and humming lines to myself is is not something I’ve ever really done with their past material, but find with regularity here.
There’s experimentation too; interlude “╪” is sweet and simple in its composition, and totally in keeping with the EP’s feel. It also manages not to stall proceedings, as many interludes do; instead it builds seamlessly into the intro of closer “Alive“, which crests and falls between full-throated post-whatever and bare-assed, delicate, single instrument/vocal sections, packing punch after punch before a final, full-stop of a closing salvo.
It’s this kind of atmospheric shift that marks DSHS as the forerunners in their field; they create these resounding, wall-bouncing soundscapes, and then switch them at the drop of a hat. The final half-minute of “Unveiled” is a perfect example: the band are full throttle into what feels like the track’s epic conclusion – and then they drop everything apart from the two Pauls’ vocals and samples – and then pick it back 30 seconds later to properly round out the song. The latter of these two members is also a vitally important part of their sound; raising his head in all the right places throughout the all too short 25 minutes that Belong ╪ Betray runs to add just a little extra something.
Whilst I’ve always loved Devil Sold His Soul, Belong ╪ Betray is exactly what the band always should have become, and it’s incredibly fulfilling – and exciting – to see them realising their potential to its upper limits. In a genre that is easy to get wrong, they nail everything, and when it’s over, you immediately want to hit play again; a true mark of quality.