When a doom band’s official place of formation is at a Pentagram gig, you know pretty much what you’re going to get thrust down your lugholes in very due course, and Akershus, Norway’s Devil do not disappoint on their debut slab of heaviness out now on Soulseller Records. Swiping the oak-old riffs from the giants of a bygone satanic era: Witchfinder General, Trouble and Cathedral and locking them in a putrid dungeon with the pumped-up, testosterone-fuelled swagger of early Judas Priest, Angel Witch and Raven, ‘Time To Repent’ is a glorious gallop through the wet, muddy pastures of heavy metal.
With a vinyl-released EP ‘Magister Mundi Xum’, and not to mention Europe-wide support slots with Electric Wizard, successfully under their bullet-lined belts, Devil have wasted no time in getting their names out there to become a fast-rising star in the underground doom cosmos, all within the past two years. There’s a clear ethos within the band to keep the heritage and traditions of heavy rock in place, with the production deliciously under-cut to resonate the 1970’s NWOBHM live sound. It’s this collision of fuzzy recording and fresh, yet simple and upbeat riffing that gives the record such a bouncy, playful feel, rather than the usual gruesome crush of death-gorging, apocalyptic, sludgey metal. Vocalist Joakim is the icing on this boyish birthday cake of rock with his Scandinavian-flavoured punk snarl – at times soaring above the riffs, at others brooding away underneath the grooves. The likes of ‘Blood Is Boiling’ and ‘Crazy Woman’ owe their catchy repetitiveness and old skool cool to the tall, blonde, trenchcoated frontman’s strained rasp, which has so much echo applied to it that it sounds as though it’s been recorded through a mic in the room next door to him.
In contrast to many metal albums of this ilk, there’s a varied amount of different song writing structures going on. ‘Open Casket’ and ‘At The Blacksmiths’ both carry muscular, treacle-thick riffs, but the gang-vocals on the later track’s chorus give it an almost child-like sense of fun, whilst the desperate, driving rhythms of ‘Open Casket’ scream of its doomed misery. It’s on the majestic ‘Death of a Sorcerer’ however that this band open up into a new class of excellence, with its slow, sombre bass-driven opening, Joakim’s funeral-like verse and the culmination towards glorious chiming guitars makes this sound like Black Sabbath playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The first time I heard this song as part of a lengthy podcast, I was completely blown away, and it remains ‘Time To Repent’ standout moment. ‘Howling (At the World)’ is a fitting closer, with Joakim moving into choir mode and guitarists Stian Fossum and Kai Wanderås pounding to the finishing line.
Where ‘Time To Repent’ will split favourability amongst the denim-clad legions will be firstly over their possible riff-poaching (the title track sounds awfully similar to Megadeth’s ‘In My Darkest Hour’) but also possibly over their lyrics. Bands have a fine line to tread between Satan-worshipping, inverted-cross-inside-a-pentagram grimness and OTT Manowar cheese. Devil walk this tightrope pretty well but with such nuggets as “walking along, singing a song”, “riders of the apocalypse” and the vivid descriptions of the ‘Crazy Woman’ wrapping her thighs around a snake, there are at the least a few occasions to have the odd chuckle!
Nonetheless, this is d00m as the good Reverend of the Sabbath intended, and if you don’t find at least parts of this record remotely enjoyable, then you’re probably missing the simple pleasures in rock music. Fans of the recent birth of heritage-embracing heavy bands, such as Ghost, should lap up these crunching stomps of pure metal which you will find yourself humming throughout your day, whether you like it or not. This record is worth buying for ‘Death of a Sorcerer’ alone, but more than that, ‘Time To Repent’ is an incredibly easy album to pick up and satisfy your hunger for riffs any day of the week.
Scribed by: Pete Green