Although ‘Dark Manoeuvres’ is the debut album from brummies Devilfire, vocalist, lyricist, and frontman Alex Cooper has been living with the songs for sometime now. Written, re-written, re-tracked, and now finally ready for punters to get their grubby little mitts on. Holding back until he was totally satisfied with the finished product has proven to be a wise decision, and the end result is a highly polished debut album. Although melodic rock is the beating heart of Devilfire, they do cross over into that purple patch of british rock from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. Specifics? Guitar driven rock in the vein of ‘Electric’ and ‘Sonic Temple’ era Cult, (‘She’s Like Fire’ in particular). Sidenote – Ian Astbury, the last bonafide rock god? As in looks, attitude and an all-round aura. Just my tuppence worth. From the same period, ‘Generation Terrorists’ era Manics. It took a while before the lightbulb lit, but tracks like opener ‘Ready For War?’ and ‘(In And Out Of Love) All Of The Time’ feature that same anguished vocal performance as patented by James Dean Bradfield.
The album is full of dynamics, gorgeous layered guitars with towering riffs, lush vocal harmonies, synths, and nailed on production from Cooper and Romesh Dodangoda. The synths are effective in creating an atmosphere on ‘Waiting On A Rockstar’, a tale of keeping your wits about you in the music industry. One of the more commercial moments on the album, it has much to offer the listener without battering them over the head. With it’s multiple changes ‘Lay It On The Line’ is another gorgeous moment. A Slash-like guitar intro, that you expect to explode into life any moment, only for it to develop into a slower, heavier epic. Cooper’s vocals are immense, the most pleasing aspect about them is that they are unique today. No vocal gymnastics are attempted, no over-singing, just strong world-weary vocals that sound believable. Not afraid to put his emotions out there for all to see, Cooper manages to make songs about heartache quite upbeat. ‘Tear Me Apart’, for instance, could have been a maudlin few moments, but instead it has a jaunty little doo-wop swing to it. You might just find yourself clicking your fingers to the beat. Kudos on the James Bond theme inspired ‘She’s Always On The Run’. I do like a band that thinks big. Darker tracks on the album include ‘God Give Me Vengeance’ and the monstrous ‘(You Gotta) Revolution’, the latter in particular stands out with its call-to-arms chants and subtle guitar fireworks. Ending on the stark, acoustic ‘Somehow’ is a bold move. Cooper baring his emotions on a track that, had it been written and performed by anyone other than long haired tattooed rockers, then you would see it performed on Later With Jools Holland. Mind you, the image of Cooper flanked by guitarists Baz Blackett and Richard Bloomer-Davies as Holland stands back thinking “how can I add piano to that?” does sound rather nice.
‘Dark Manoeuvres’ is available now. More information online,
Review: Dave Stott