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Devilskin - Album Review: Red

01 Apr 2020 // A review by Kris Raven

On album number four, RED is both a warning and a statement and Devilskin are here to deliver it in their most diverse and creative outing yet. Four years have passed since the release of their 2016 award-winning second album Be Like The River and as they come off the back of heavy national and international touring; Devilskin, one of NZ’s most beloved Rock/Metal bands is about to release their highly anticipated album in amongst the chaos of 2020.

While the world is dealing with crisis, the music world is blessing us with some of the best art and content so far this year. Devilskin have created a very inspired, well written and lyrically very human record. Produced by global powerhouse-resident NZer Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers/Ekko Park) and Simon Gooding (Pink, Alien Weaponry), the production on RED is as huge as ever; crisp, with a real feel between live and studio, and complete with some added layers and elements (I heard that cow bell!).

Opening with Do You See Birds (take note musicians - this is the way to start an album), this is a constructively aggressive piece designed to get the heart pumping and the pit moving quickly. Guitarist Nail begins proceedings with an SOAD type inspired riff; shreddy and heavy, which is soon joined by the thundering Martin rhythmic powerhouse. The song's dynamic plays out between frantic full and half speed rhythms, with vocalist Jennie Smathers' showcasing her incredible vocal range; we are given spine chilling high notes, mammoth screams and punk inspired angst, all within four minutes.

The second track and second single is All Fall Down (with an incredible futuristic video). This song is a definite DS banger, complete with all the parts we have come to know and love from the band; the opening riff has a Disturbed feel, but if Disturbed were progressive metal. Nail’s epic guitar solo during the bridge will impress guitar virtuoso's and generally anyone who likes rad guitar solos - with a little bit of Dimebag and Maiden influence perhaps. The metalcore-like double kick and guitar sync breakdown during the chorus with the haunting organ in the chorus, adds a cinematic vibe to a very hooky song. The vocal melodies are rampant throughout and memorable, with the anthemic “We all fall down” belting out, with my favourite line being “life's a deadly game”. 

The third track and also third single to be released, Corrode is a bit of grower, I really like the crunchy heaviness of the intro with the china cymbal smashing away. A little slower throughout compared to the onslaught of the first two songs but this is still a definite head banging thrasher. They also create further depth with guitar effects creating synth like sounds, creating further atmosphere to the backdrop of the Devilskin sound. Eyes Red Heavy begins as a slower melodic song with a massive chorus. An amazing solo by Nail, it has that metal ballad feel (and not cheesy, shi%y ballad, this is a ballad done right!). I can see this being another DS single and crowd favourite. "Trying to improve myself", these feelings that overwhelm, a very global message we can all relate to. You think the song is over, no, rad acoustic outro!, reminds me a little of 80's era Metallica.

Same Life starts with Paul Martin's huge rumbling bass line and carries a punk rock feel, Jennie's vocals have a Davey Havok style scream to them with some low growls for good measure. Driving into another catchy chorus that changes between full and half speed tempos, drummer Nic Martin throwing in some tasty and well written drum fills with Paul continuing the pulsing rhythms. We are midway people, and this ship ain't slowing down at all.

The Victor begins with a massive bouncy groove and carries that feel throughout, while the vocals flow with infectious hooks and punches. Paul Martin's chorus heavy melodic bass lead invites us into track seven Blood and Bone. A slow burning start is then washed with heavy distorted open chords and solid drum patterns. And then we reach Endo, which is easily one of the best all time DS tracks for me. I love the clean melodic intro; the bounce of the main guitar riff is familiar and effective. The lyrical theme of this song is a message that many women globally can relate too and something that needs to be voiced on a larger scale (for everyone). This song is crazy hooky and the vocals are huge. Then my favourite intro on RED and an absolute album highlight; Bright Lights begins with a mechanically intricate finger picked guitar hook (this carries throughout parts of the song) with another distorted riff planted over the top. It has all the feels of a modern progressive metal/rock song. Jennie’s vocals shining over in the chorus and a few bone crushing throat punchers too. I like the addition of the percussion, adding that extra layer to a song full of well-crafted depth.

Sweet Release begins gently and carries like a story. Nic's drums play like waves and bends, Paul  carries the main riff, simple and driving, on bass while Nail fills in the space with tasty licks, clean picking and leads including a very classy, blues-Clapton-esque solo. This is definitely one of my top songs on the album. The lyrics resonate too "Life's emotion, sweet release", and we are then taken out by a beautiful piano only outro. Be Like The River feels like an ode to their past (reference to previous album) and also to the future, with their old and new fans referenced in the lyrics: "Be like the river and flow like the stream and one day you will be a part of me". This is a bluesy rock/metal piece, some NOLA vibes with lots of groove and attitude, I really enjoyed the in-sync funky bass and drum comradery in the final verse. And if Jennie's vocals haven’t wowed you by now then the outro will take you to church, full gospel and those phenomenal high vocals.

Everybody's High But Me is the latest single and is a very fun tongue-and-cheek, fast, punk-and-roll upbeat tune, and a good way to end the album ... on a high. Following the classic DS formula but saving some extra fun for the grand finale, when Jennie's vocals channel the legend that is Mike Patton and Satan. It's very cool and being a Patton fan, I dug it. Great way to end what is a very diverse album. And it is diverse, you can tell everyone has brought in their plethora of influence from decades of musical taste and it really works, making this album one you keep finding things on. There are songs for old school DS and traditional metal and rock fans, but also people who need a little taste of the alternative, progressive and new school. RED has certainly out-blown my expectations and I look forward to hearing this on vinyl, checking out the awesome artwork in the flesh and catching some of my new favs live. 

RED is the universal colour of passion, vitality, blood, danger, romance, anger, horror and love - this album captures all that and much more. And you can hear it all from 3 April 2020!

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Devilskin

Devilskin formed in June 2010 in Hamilton New Zealand and features the spectacular Jennie Skulander on lead vocals. Her powerful and compelling voice and alluring stage presence sets her apart from any vocalist New Zealand has put up so far. With an unerring gift for melody, Jennie's incredible voice sweeps from whisper to roar, rips with power, drips with melody and captivates with sincerity.

Jennie previously fronted Rotorua band Slipping Tongue garnering a swathe of fans with their videos, EPs and album. Slipping Tongue also impressed many when they opened for Coheed & Cambria in 2008.

On lead guitar is Nail from the popular Waikato band Chuganaut who won the NZ Battle of the Bands and the World Battle Of The Bands in 2004. Played BDO in 2005 and opened for Iron Maiden at Mt Smart stadium in 2009. Chuganaut has played numerous national tours and released several singles, EP’s, videos and an album. Nail's searing guitar work and high energy performance bring real intensity to the live show. Nail also performs with Beckoned.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Devilskin

Releases

Surfacing
Year: 2024
Type: EP
Red
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Be Like The River
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
We Rise
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Live At The Powerstation
Year: 2014
Type: DVD

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