It’s a great barometer regarding the quality of an album when even after multiple listens, you can still discover something new each time. Take ‘Black Soul Vendetta’ from Midlands-based rockers Devilfire for instance, were the short, foreboding piano strikes on ‘Chasing The Pain’ always there? Ditto the gorgeous, layered melodic guitars on ‘Vendetta’, and the subtle James Bond-esque arrangements on ‘Dead Man Walking’. Always there? Yeah? Nice!
There’s much to admire on ‘Black Soul Vendetta’. There is the small matter of the stunning cover artwork, and if further proof was needed why a physical product will always trump a stream or download, then here it is. Created with love and passion, it truly does deliver on all fronts, and lets those that pre-ordered in advance, feel like they have invested in something special. Then there is the stellar production from Devilfire vocalist Alex Cooper; crystal clear, and loud, but not to the extent that it becomes distorted and muffled like so many modern-day albums.
Cooper has an intriguing voice; no faux American-isms, no attempts to emulate the go-to guys for so many young rock vocalists today – Myles Kennedy and Chris Robertson. Instead, he has a wonderfully clean, expressive voice which at times recalls James Dean Bradfield from the Manics.
Great cover art, fantastic production, but this wouldn’t mean a thing if the songs were inferior. Thankfully, they are not. Opening track ‘Cruelest Animal’ is a fantastic example of story-telling that ensnares the listener with its subtle hooks; ‘Chasing The Pain’ is sassy L.A.-tinged guitar-driven rock that gets better the louder it goes, throw in some brass and neat co-vocals from Slash’s Snakepit vocalist Eric Dover, and it’s a memorable few minutes; ‘Vendetta’ features a lovely line in chugging guitar riffs; the bold and ambitious ‘Dead Man Walking’ causes James Bond ‘Live and Let Die’ flashbacks, and ‘Dream Evil’ features some rather nifty string arrangements. And that’s just the first half of the album.
‘Justify’ kicks off the back nine in a surprising way, with a light electronic touch peppered throughout. It’s always nice when an album provides a few surprises and the Toto/Foreigner-with-riffs vibe works well (as they also do later on with ‘What You Pay For’). If ‘Justify’ is the light, then ‘Sell My Soul’ provides some darkness with gritty guitar melodies that recall the glory days of Moore, Gorham, and Robbo in all their Thin Lizzy glory. Turn this one up and let the riffs wash over you, especially the change in pacing as the lead solo kicks in towards the end. ‘Black Soul Bones’ is the standout moment on the album. The atmospheric background vocalising and voodoo-like swing bring a sense of Mardi Gras to the party, loads going on during the track, and the immediate reaction once it fades out is to press repeat. Ending on the piano-driven heartfelt ballad-of-sorts ‘Wasn’t It Love?’, this is an album of great variety and constant surprises.
The best things come to those that wait, and Devilfire has rewarded the patience of their ever-growing army of fans with a killer follow up to 2017’s accomplished debut album; ’Dark Manoeuvres’.
Pick up ‘Black Soul Vendetta’ here.
Review – Dave