No colour divides the room like the colour red. Love, lust, roses, Valentines Day… rosy cheeks. Then there is; blood, anger, rage, heat… hell. Even the Devil himself is traditionally portrayed as being red. Devilskin have named their fourth album; ‘RED’, not ‘Red’ – ‘RED’; all caps. There’s no disputing what visual aspects of the colour that the quartet from Hamilton, New Zealand are going with, especially when they open the album with the pummelling ‘Do You See Birds’.
With its devilish (enough, already!) mix of harsh and clean vocals from Jennie Skulander, the opening track is a real statement of intent, especially considering that it nearly didn’t make the album. Is saying that drummer Nic Martin plays out of his skin too easy a pun to make? Yes, yes it is. Deal with it. Martin junior does deserve special attention though. The partnership he forms with his old man (bassist Paul) is crucial to the Devilskin sound, and ‘Do You See Birds’ is a perfect example of this. Likewise, listen to his bass drum work on ‘All Fall Down’ and purr with delight. Previously released as a single, ‘All Fall Down’ is one of those moments where you would swear that Devilskin favoured a two-pronged axe attack, but it’s just the one guitarist making all that sweet music… the rather lovely-named Nail.
The crushing ‘Corrode’ is the most recent single, and it belongs to the angst-ridden vocals of Skulander. Isolate the vocals and it’s goosebumps time! Oh, and a special mention to the cowbell mid-song! ‘Eyes Red Heavy’ is the longest track on ‘RED’, the five minute runtime gives Devilskin an excuse to really stretch out. Towering vocals from Skulander, fantastic arrangements in the background that add some atmosphere, a rather lovely guitar solo from Nail, and some acoustic guitar to end on. Nice! ‘Same Life’ is all about the throbbing bass lines from Martin Sr on a track where the intro suggests a GNR ‘You Could Be Mine’ vibe. Lots of twists and turns on this one, nice use of harsh vocals, and again Martin Jr earns a crust with his drum work. From the harsh vocals of ‘Same Life’ to the more accessible tones of ‘The Victor’, a few moments that are commercial enough without watering the sound down. I’ll bet this one totally slays live… whenever we get back to a live setting, that is.
‘Blood Bone’ has a slow, crushing Metallica vibe to it in places. With its light, gentle intro, ‘Endo’ might hint that Devilskin are going down a certain path, only for the band to crash in and go down an entirely different one. The percussion work on the latter stages of ‘Endo’, mixed with Skulander’s growls will have you checking that it’s not two different songs. ‘Bright Lights’ is another deceptive little bastard, lighter-than-light in places (especially the intro) and pulverising in others. ‘Sweet Release’ is trippy and psychedelic, with some gorgeous shimmering, almost surf-like, guitar tones in the background, while the foreground is all guitar-hero. As the song progresses, it veers into epic territory (bongos even?) and is front runner for stand-out track on an album of many. Musically, ‘Be Like The River’ (which takes its title from the 2016 studio album of the same name) has a swing to it. Listen to the guitars – that’s Brad Whitford playing off Joe Perry in Aerosmith. Except it’s Nail playing off himself. The song has a loose, improvised feel to it, a right-here-right-now feel. A full throttle ‘Everybody’s High But Me’ brings this intense, varied album to an explosive climax. Deep Purple’s ‘Speed King’ done 2020-style, with harsh vocals… sign on the dotted line, please.
The current lock-down has meant that Devilskin have had to delay the shipping of the physical versions of ‘RED’. In the meantime, stream/download the shit out of it here.
Review – Dave