Live Review: The Devil’s Blood @ Moho, Manchester, 17/02/2012

Due to my poor timing and the journey taking longer than planned, we managed to arrive moments after Funeral Throne finished. Now, with only candles set up around a shrine in the middle of the stage, and droning atmospheric ambience for entertainment, we waited for what seemed like a long time. The ‘scary music’ was unceasingly dribbling out of the PA system, giving a restless and cheap feeling that probably wasn’t what The Devil’s Blood intended. Not to worry, this at least gave me more opportunity to spend over three pounds a pop for cans of lager.

Eventually five very serious looking figures covered in mud, blood and adorned in tight leather pants enter the stage. The frontwoman or ‘priestess’ remains out of sight for the moment, while her brother, the creative and spiritual force behind the band, tightly harmonises and solos with the other two guitarists.

The guitarist closest to me chants to himself whilst staring directly ahead in a way that makes me think he might have seen action in ‘Nam. The Devil’s Blood haven’t ever given the impression that they do this for the love of music. Anyone who’s read up on the band will know that their objective is possibly more sinister and occult; it’s also of much less interest to me. Obviously I can’t speak for all as Ghost’s recent success has shown; there seems to be a lot of people who find it fascinating. Still, The Devil’s Blood were crazy long before Ghost started dressing up as necrotized Klan members and spouting their devil worship. The Devil’s Blood’s explanation of their agenda and belief seems cryptic and long winded, but is basically aimed at instilling rebellious behaviour, and it’s no surprise to me that they ideologically align themselves with the likes of Jon Nodviedt from Dissection, whose beliefs lead him to shoot himself instead of making another fucking album.

The band’s creation of atmosphere is the first thing to be emphasised. Songs seem to be more of a ritual than played track after track. Lengthy build ups lead into a sublime moment where songs such as ‘On the Wings of Gloria’ come in with a spine shattering bass line. This is where The Devil’s Blood’s brilliance, which is their strength of their songs, becomes apparent. The vocalist stands close to the crowd, her arms open wide, beckoning, with wild hair and shrouded in smoke. Her powerful, melodic voice slices through the mix like a razor through flesh. It would be easy for her to over indulge, yet the performance fits the band’s psychedelic rock influenced style perfectly, adding another dynamic that makes The Devil’s Blood special. Another is the bands ambiguity in terms of their musical design, their certainly black metal fans but draw just as much in their style from the likes of Fleetwood Mac amongst an array of trippy 70s rock. I find the band avoids mediocrity and distastefulness completely, even lyrically, on a subject I generally find to be arrogant and stupid. ‘The Yonder Beckons’ was certainly a highlight in the set, with the band at their most imposing, creating a powerful energy to the haunting march of the song, which gives prominence to the bands most powerful weapon which is their musical subtlety.

Unfortunately the electrical atmosphere these moments created did not last, and the band did not attempt to keep it flowing by moving on quickly. Jams inbetween and during songs were far too lengthy; there would come a point where the crowd, nodding along, would expect the start of the next song, and instead were subjected to another five minutes of solo trade-offs between guitarists. I felt sorry for the bassist having to hold onto what shred of a riff they were playing ten minutes ago. Although it would have worked in moderation, there were several point’s when I wanted them to stop fucking about and play a fucking song. It was a shame that these moments had to contrast so much with the great ones, and also with the band’s ability to write songs with none of the bullshit or ego that was displayed live. This, combined with the venues’ consistently bad sound didn’t stop the band from being an impressive, enjoyable experience and I left happy, also I’ll know at what points to go to the bar when I watch them at Hellfest.

Michael Collins

Textures – Dualism

Textures

Dualism
Nuclear Blast

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When Textures first emerged in 2004 with their slightly more melodic take on Meshuggah mind-mangling technical metal, it’s taken the world at large a little while to come round to them. Efforts like ‘Drawing Circles’ and ‘Silhouettes’ deserved wider attention – the mixture of technical riffs, beats and ambience was certainly a winner and Textures showed they could pull it off with ease. Since releasing ‘Silhouettes’, a slew of (progressive) technical metal has emerged, each claiming to be original by going under a name derived from an apparent guitar sound.
That claim I refute on two grounds:
1. They wouldn’t exist without Meshuggah and, to a lesser extent, bands like Textures;
2. It’s not even a word! Hence it shall not be named here, and simply known as what it is: technical metal.

But on a more serious note, this is the first album from the Dutch sextet since the departure of Eric Kalsbeek, replaced by former Cilice singer Daniel de Jongh. The first thing you’ll notice about de Jongh is what an impressive set of pipes he has, arguably possessing a greater range than Kalsbeek, and it would appear that Textures have chosen to emphasise this fact on album number four, ‘Dualism’, as now a whole new world of guitar nerds suddenly looks to them as a major player within their scene – praise they struggled to attain on their first three records, despite great reviews.
There are numerous positives to take from ‘Dualism’, as there’s no shortage of cracking riffs and off-kilter beats and melodies. The opener ‘Arms of the Sea’ has plenty of jaw-rattling action just before de Jongh’s roar is introduced, his vocal prowess becoming apparent during the course of the song. His voice is tailor made for the single ‘Reaching Home’, a much more straightforward, melodic numbers, relying less on polyrhythmic worship and more on creating a potential anthem.
de Jongh’s vocals continue to flex on ‘Consonant Hemispheres’, which slowly builds up into a cracking midsection flexing de Jongh’s vocals with a fantastic spacey line, eventually crashing into a tasty tech mosh. They pair the vocals and riffs well on numerous occasions, notably on ‘Stoic Resignation’, with the closing ‘Bring it all down’ refrain from de Jongh and guitarist Jochem Jacobs. ‘Burning The Midnight Oil’ is another corker, an instrumental track and another slow burner, again building into another kick ass riff, running along the fretboard almost in sync with Stef Broks’ groovy beat. And you know you’re onto a winner when songs like ‘Sketches from a Motionless Statue’ sound as huge as they do, Broks like a man possessed as he throws out numerous drum patterns across the duration of the closer.
The major problem with this album ironically lies within de Jongh’s vocals and Textures’ apparent emphasis on them. The mix prioritises them quite highly and at times it seems to dominate proceedings. Yes, he’s got a damn fine voice – but at times you just want to hear the riff and at times it’s washed out by soaring melody. Upon repeated listening this becomes more and more of an issue, and sometimes you would rather be jarred by the rhythm section than hear de Jongh reach his apex yet again.
It’s that for me that prevents ‘Dualism’ from being among the very best albums this year, as well as Textures’ new found sense of balancing time signatures and more straightforward sections between one another, all of which might need time to get used to. It’s still streets ahead of the chasing pack though, and is a much welcome return from six of Holland’s finest technicians.
Peter Clegg