I recently read an interview with diminutive Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth where he talked about how much variety there was in the Black Metal genre and he makes a good point. The nasty sub-genre of metal has evolved from the 80s invention by Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost, through the Norwegian influence of Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor and Satyricon that twisted the scene, particularly in Europe and North America, and which led to the USBM scene and beyond.
This far reaching evolution of styles has overlapped with other genres such as the symphonic death metal majesty of Dimmu Borgir, the blackened sludge of Lord Mantis or the ever shifting sounds of Abigail Williams. Which segues nicely into talking about new deviants on the block Devil With No Name.
The latest creative outlet for multi-instrumentalist Andrew Markuszewski, who is not only one of the principle song writers of Lord Mantis but also shares guitar duties with Abigail Williams mastermind Ken Scorceron. A far purer black metal venture than the aforementioned Lord Mantis, this project naturally shares a kinship with his previous Avichi incarnation where, going under the moniker of Aamonael, Markuszewski produced three critically acclaimed albums in The Divine Tragedy (2007), The Devil’s Fractal (2011) and their crowning glory Catharsis Absolute (2014).
However unlike Avichi, Devil With No Name is a far more American sounding take on black metal. Yes the icy Norwegian blasts still cast an influence, but this has been dubbed a black metal western and its inception began some years back when Markuszewski relocated from his native Chicago to the desert dry Arizona and became immersed in the southern culture.
However, unlike Avichi, Devil With No Name is a more collaborative affair with the song writing duties being shared with band mates Michał Juśko (on bass and additional vocals, of Sovereign) and drummer Cody Stein (Void Omnia). This four track EP is a sonically pummelling journey that flashes past in under twenty minutes, but leaves you reeling and wanting more.
Steeped in religious imagery and subject matter, wrapped in the folklore of the Badlands, this self-titled record deals with the legends of the dark nemesis and how it translates into the modern world.
Opening track, Grand Western Apostasy addresses the west’s abandonment of God and the vacuum in which evil is allowed to flourish, dressed in dust dry references and flavours. Musically it’s a drama filled piece full of atmospheric drumming and lurching guitars, offset with deft tremolo flourishes that explodes into furious chaos. The riffs hum over frantic, churning blast beats even before the meat of the track arrives.
Much like Avichi, Grand Western Apostasy doesn’t fit into any conventional tranche of black metal, and like Abigail William’s recent Walk Beyond The Dark this creates its own madness; awash with samples it feels like a rallying call from a Hammer Horror movie preacher.
Dripping with the same (ahem) venomous spirit, Alleulia walks the line between a huge sing along chorus and gleefully blasphemous lyrical content…
This madness is shared by the third track Sycophants Of The Covenant as furious paced riffing lays a platform for Markuszewki’s guttural growl to menacingly spew forth it’s message, before morphing into an almost monk like intonations. The middle section breaks down into a gallop that conjures up the same sort of movie like feel, captured by Iron Maiden on Run to the Hills, before the band return to the surgical precision pummelling of the opening.
These tracks show that Devil With No Name can hold their own with the more traditional black metal associated with the likes of Darkthrone, and that as warm as the desert sun may get, the temperature drops once the sun goes down.
Just as there is a common sonic bond between tracks 1 and 3, Alleluia and closer Monad also have a similar feel. More akin to the latter day black metal ‘rock and roll’ of latter day Satyricon, these tracks stomp and snarl rather than hum frantically. No less compromising for their mid paced pounding, they show the forward driving nature of the band’s vision. Dripping with the same (ahem) venomous spirit, Alleulia walks the line between a huge sing along chorus and gleefully blasphemous lyrical content, as the titular devil taunts and beckons, barked viciously by Markuszewki. And the guitar slide into the most blackened part of this song is just delicious.
Closing track Monad is the standout track on this release for me, a huge head banging, pace switching piece of atmospheric writing that at times manages to be both beautiful and ugly. The band tower over everything they have done before and the spaghetti western feel of the EP is turned all the way up to the point where the tale of the Monad (Supreme being/divinity/the totality of all things) being the stalking, forsaken creature that permeates all cultures.
With artwork by Rodrigo Pereira Salvatierra, mixed and mastered by the aforementioned Scorceron, this EP (released on digital platforms and 180gram black gatefold vinyl) sounds incredible as all players are given equally balance to shine. From the delicate guitar flavours, the buzzing riffs, the crash of the cymbals or the throb of the bass Devil With No Name is a perfect debut that it leaves you salivating for more.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s just over 19 minutes long, a fact I discovered after I had pre-ordered the vinyl which didn’t faze me. There is no fat on this release as Devil With No Name is a crushing and emotionally stirring four tracker that has been played on repeat too many times to mention since receiving it.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden