The all important background information; Devilskin are from New Zealand, they play hard rock with some grunts and growls thrown in, singer Jennie Skulander has the coolest surname ever, drummer Nic Martin is the son of bassist Paul Martin, and most importantly, they are pretty damn good. And now for a couple of minor little details; debut album ‘We Rise’ was certified platinum in New Zealand, and that little known band Halestorm will open for Devilskin in NZ over the new year period. Like I said, minor little details.
Sophomore album, ‘Be Like The River’, continues where the debut left off, with Jennie’s deep, rich voice flowing out from the speakers and burrowing deep inside the listener’s head. ‘In Black’ is fast out of the gate. The thumping rhythms, complete with a crushing bass drum sound, impress from the off, and had my PC monitor waving the white flag of submission. Jennie’s vocals are emotive, and if you need a starting point for sake of comparisons, then perhaps Amy Lee would be a good place to start, deep and delicious. ‘Mountains’ has been available on video for a year now, and if you want to see a band with a look of “whose fucking idea was this?” etched across their faces as they freeze atop a mountain, then check it out. The vocals are very smooth, but it’s the guitar work from Nail that keeps the band thundering along. Likewise, ‘Pray’ has also been out for a while. The video sees the band learning their lesson as they come down from the mountain to warmer climates. It has a modern metal sound to it, with Jennie switching from clean vocals to death growls. Again, it’s bass heavy, as Martin Snr shakes the house down with some beefy four finger action.
Devilskin mix it up a bit on the album, with the likes of ‘Voices’ and ‘Believe In Me’ pushing the melodic side of the band more to the front. The growls aren’t far away though, and come seeping back in on the latter. Even though the growls are present, the song never loses it’s melody, and remains a firm favourite, deserving of much media attention. ‘FYI’ has an old school metal vibe about the intro, Maiden mashed with some early Judas Priest, but as the song progresses, it develops an almost hardcore element. ‘Bury Me’ and ‘Grave’ feature more of the Devilskin ‘crunch’, whereas ‘House 13’ sees the band spread their wings and bulldoze many tempo and direction changes. I like a band not afraid to mix it up and Devilskin certainly do that. ‘Animal’ has a laidback intro and a restrained vocal that builds up to a mid song crescendo, complete with a sweet string arrangement. This leads perfectly into ‘Limbs’, which has a middle eastern Zeppelin kind of vibe, mysterious in places, crushing in others. The deluxe edition comes with the added tracks ‘Closer’ and ‘We Rise’… two very different tracks. ‘Closer’ is a totally an unashamed love song, softer than anything else on the album. It’s an emotional few minutes, as the band turn it down a notch. ‘We Rise’ is more old school metal, where the riffs are king, and in places, maybe some Dio influences creep in? Ultimately though, it’s Jennie’s growls that steal the show. A fitting way to end the album.
If you have yet to acquaint yourself with New Zealand’s finest export since any random All Black rugby player that comes to mind, now is the time. ‘Be Like The River’ is available now, and well worthy of your attention.
Review: Dave Stott