Thursday, 24 April 2014

Album Review; Devil You Know - The Beauty Of Destruction

Track Listing:

1. A New Beginning
2. My Own
3. Embracing The Torture
4. For The Dead And Broken
5. Seven Years Alone
6. It's Over
7. A Mind Insane
8. Crawl From The Dark
9. The Killer
10. I Am The Nothing
11. Shut It Down
12. As Bright As The Darkness

So, after Killswitch Engage staged a return to former glories in the form of last year's album 'Disarm The Descent' which saw the band reunited with original singer Jesse Leach, we finally hear from former singer Howard Jones again. Many of us, myself included, have been wondering what his return to the Metal scene would be like since he announced the formation and details of Devil You Know. My worry has been that it would turn out to be just another Killswitch clone. With 'The Beauty Of Destruction' finally upon us, it's time to see.

The album starts off in powerful and impressive form. 'A New Beginning' is Modern Metal at its most in-your-face and catchy. It's a great start to an album that sees Howard Jones' vocal abilities in rude health. I'm one of those who greatly preferred Jones' voice to Jesse Leach's as far as KSE goes, so it's great to hear him coming out with his brilliant screams and his accomplished clean vocals with more power and conviction than we had heard since 'The End Of Heartache'. The almost doom-laden riff helps in delivering a statement of intent before the album carries on.

'My Own' has the kind of rhythmic quality and chorus that is reminiscent of Killswitch, but manages to avoid sounding too similar. There was always going to be shades of Howard Jones' former band present in Devil You Know, especially on their first album, but there's enough personality on show to save this song from sounding like a Killswitch song that never made it to press. Jones' clean singing shines through in the hooks of the chorus.

It should also be unsurprising that the band have an Industrial sound to their albums, since the drummer is Devolved's John Sankey, who was also responsible for programming the drums on Fear Factory's 'The Industrialist' album. He also drummed with FF guitarist Dino Cazares in the side-project Divine Heresy. The guitars also have an Industrial sound on the lower registers, which gives the music an extra sense of weight that the frontman's former band sometimes lack in. These elements are particularly prominent on 'Embracing The Torture' which shows moments of crushing heaviness that even manage to carry through to the sing-along Metalcore chorus. If Devil You Know get lumped in the Metalcore category, let them sit with bands like The Defiled.

'For The Dead And Broken' shows a more melancholy side to the band's sound, but it's still fairly potent. Sound effects thrown in here and there, as well as some effects put onto the vocals, keep the Industrial edge ever-present. There's the first bona-fide breakdown in this song, too. I'm personally glad that it took so long for a breakdown to be used. 'Seven Years Alone' could just as easily be a Fear Factory song, as far as the verses are concerned, and the chorus is strong as well. Jones' vocals never seem lazy, and indeed there seems to be a fire burning in the man that was absent in the time leading up to his ejection from Killswitch. A great guitar solo soars over the percussive onslaught, further solidifying this as an album highlight.

'It's Over' begins with a somewhat predictable clean guitar introduction, paving the road for a more transparent and heartfelt performance from the frontman. The chorus will stick in the head and you'd be easily forgiven for singing along. As ballads go, this is one of the better ones I've heard, though there is an element of cheese in the backing vocals that can be heard in the chorus. Lyrically, you don't get much more basic, but at least the song offers a breathing space and shows another dimension to Devil You Know, albeit an expected one considering who their frontman is.

'A Mind Insane' brings back the relentless percussion and the frontman's more venomous vocal abilities. This is, yet again, catchy stuff that stands head and shoulders above any Killswitch Engage music in terms of style and individuality. I'm glad that the band haven't fallen into the easy trap that is the Metalcore scene. Indeed, this music is much more than just Melodic Metalcore, I'm happy to inform you. 'Crawl From The Dark' is a creepier song with an almost Sabbath like quality to the vocal melody. Sounds mad, I realise, but there's a definite Doom element to the slowly stomping feel of this song. It fits the band brilliantly and it's also great to hear Howard Jones doing something other than the constant mid-tempos that he was given in his previous band! The vocal harmonies fall on the ear really well here.

'The Killer' keeps things going smoothly, though it is one of the more pedestrian songs on the album. There's almost a Nu-Metal feel to this song, hidden somewhere in the groove and the simplicity of the lyrics used. I can already tell that some people may cast this song off, though the guitar solo might just change their minds. Definite marmite track.

'I Am The Nothing' focuses on Jones' clean vocals, though there's a good amount of lead guitar lines woven in throughout the song. Again, the more melancholy side shows itself. The chorus comes close to being moaning in tone, though the kind of melody on show here has not really been utilised a lot recently, so it's a good change in a way. Industrial tinges remain rife. Towards the end of the song, the whole song seems to come together a bit more for one last chorus and a classy use of a strings section to close the track.

'Shut It Down' takes things back to the feeling of the first song. It's full-speed ahead, with some spoken word sections and a few familiar melodies from the frontman. The percussion remains an ever present drive that, along with the weighty guitar work, keeps this album heavy enough to satisfy the ear that looks for the heavier side of Mainstream Metal music.

Closing song 'As Bright As The Darkness' starts off rather odd, having a dark, almost gothic feel to it. There's a bit of experimentation with some noise effects here and there, but the use of effects on the vocals is rather inexplicable, and as a result, this song sits rather awkwardly next to the rest of the songs on this album. It could easily be a case of debut-album experimenting on the part of the band, but this song, especially as an album closer, is just confusing.

Apart from a couple of miss-steps in the song writing (Seriously, that last song...) this is a pleasantly surprising album! Devil You Know are definitely a band with a lot of potential as a working unit. There's maybe a little bit of refinement needed to the band's sound, but hopefully that can happen in time for the next album. I can safely say I reckon I'm going to end up listening to this a fair bit more, and for longer than I listened to last year's Killswitch album! So, fans of Howard Jones; rejoice! The man has come back swinging. It'll be interesting to see where this goes. For now, pick up this record, it'll be worth your time.

Rating: 7.5/10

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