Band: Devil Electric
Album: Devil Electric (2017)
Genre: doom, hard rock
Where to buy: Bandcamp
Devil Electric is a young group, but their two years of ensemble work have yielded one of the best doomy hard rock albums I’ve heard recently. Their self-titled album lays some groovy, bluesy groundwork, gives all band members a chance to play off each other and build some fun arrangements, and turns on the tap of catchy, low-down, get-down rock. It’s dirty and rough, it’s occasionally lascivious, it’s just what you want when the drink in your hand is chasing the one in your belly. Most importantly, Devil Electric wears its sound with obvious comfort. The album sounds like a band running, if not a tight ship, certainly a well-oiled machine. There’s a certain casualness to Devil Electric, and it seduces us into comfort easily and with inviting gusto.
The band has made a conscious choice to paint with brushes found commonly in the fuzzy tones of mid-70s hard rock. At the base of it all are the drums of Mark Van De Beek, who knows how to build and buttress progressions and how to add just enough percussion to instrumental solos to take them to the next level. The guitars, performed by Christos Athanasias, and the bass, by Tom Hulse, grind out addictive blues riffs adorned with the sandy growls of tube amplified gain and no-nonsense stompboxes. These riffs are better than adequate; they dig into your bones and shake you alive, and they would be center of the sonic stage if not for Pierina O’Brien’s arresting vocals. She commands the direction of the songs here, save during the instrumental interludes, such as on “Lilith,” a haunting breath of doom between hard rockers. Even so, Devil Electric is at its best when everyone gets to play. As opener “Monologue (Where You Once Walked)” gets going, a mid-range drone feeds into a slow and distorted riff, backed by bass and drums. It modulates back and forth for a minute before the drums signal a pulse that means something big is coming – something with some gravity. Our apprehension is satisfied as the verse melodies ring out, and from that moment on the album has us under its spell. Even just the first track moves between tempos and tones, switching from one musical edifice to another, but we don’t mind, even though this isn’t really prog. There are elements of Sabbath, quite a lot of them in fact, but Devil Electric stick to the bread of grooves and the butter of doom, and theirs is a delicious potion.
One of my favorite things about this album is the rhetorical positions of the songs. In one, we are made a promise, or perhaps a threat: “I’m gonna make you feel what’s coming” (“Lady Velvet”). In “The Dove & The Serpent,” the following confession appears: “And now I need you more than ever.” Then, “The Sacred Machine” instructs us to “take it in but take it slow.” This is easily read as a sequence, but there is enough ambiguity to allow for the possibility that these could be multiple speakers in conversation. It adds a fun dimension to listening to Devil Electric, and it allows for everyone to interpret the songs as we please. This casual tone is cagey, hiding the work that goes into getting a group to play so naturally off each other. Devil Electric his their mark with their first full-length, and I’m excited to see what they do next.