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Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Devilskin - We Rise

Devilskin, a three men, one woman outfit hailing from New Zealand, is a relatively new player in the metal world, being founded in 2010. The band has vocalist Jennie Skulander as eyecatcher. The other three members are Paul Martin on bass and Nail on guitar, who, due to their physical resemblance are referred to as ‘the evil twins’ and Paul Martin’s son Nic on drums. Nic was not an original member, but after the previous drummer had to step back for a prolonged time after a serious motorcycle accident, Paul summoned his son to take over the drum seat. So far that proved to be the right move, Devilskin, according to themselves, have their ideal line-up. They play heavy metal with some alt metal and quite a few rock touches. ‘We rise’ is the band’s first full-length release, dating back to 2014. Up until then their working grounds were on stage, where they build themselves quite a reputation as various New Zealand media, who use a lot of superlatives to describe the band, claim. Furthermore ‘We rise’ reached platinum status in New Zealand, which gives us more than enough reason to see what all the fuss is about and to test if that fuss is justified.

Well, it is. It starts off with a track that has a peculiar title: ‘Elvis Presley circle pit’. Even though a circle pit might be a bit too much to ask, this song will definitely get you moving. A strong riff that, though not particularly original, sticks to your head. Jennie’s vocals, which at times remind me of Dutch singer Anouk’s voice, fit the song perfectly making this a catchy song with a heavy edge. This description is applicable on the majority of the songs on ‘We rise’, although there’s plenty of variety and contrast between them. Strong, skilled musicians both complementing and complemented by excellent vocals, the ultimate recipe for a delightful album. Whether it’s the upbeat ‘Never see the light’, the somewhat thrashy ‘Until you bleed’, the lingering ‘Dirt’ or the true bonus treat ‘Mountains’, there is no way you can sit still when you’re listening to them nor will you ever be bored. For extra variety there’s a few slower songs, ballads if you will, that actually improve the listening experience. ‘Fade’ with its great solo and ‘The burning tree’ where a strikingly pained, sad sounding Jennie puts up an excellent performance.

And then there’s ‘The horror’, a musical intermezzo in which it becomes clear Jennie is not to be handled with kid gloves, not only considering the phrase ‘Jennie’s got a cleaver…’ in the lyrics, but, even more than that, considering her vocals in what comes next. ‘The horror’ is a proper intro to the next song called ‘Violation’ in which Jennie, regardless whether she has a physical cleaver or not, more than proves she at least has an audible cleaver. All hell breaks loose when she unleashes the full force and reach of her voice, growling and screaming like there’s no tomorrow in this aggressive sounding song. Truly impressive. Framed in a strong musical setting this is arguably one of the best songs of the album, but there’s a few more that can claim that title in my opinion. To emphasize the contrast between the songs, ‘Violation’ is succeeded by a moody piano piece called ‘Covet’.

I think everyone reading this can tell I’m really happy with this one. ‘We rise’ is a great, varied album filled with tracks that are bound to please a wide crowd of music fans. Whether it’s the incredible voice of Jennie, the tight riffing and sweet solos Nail pulls from his strings, the humming bassline Paul surrounds us with or the stellar drum work Nic manages to squeeze out of his kit, everything on this album fits. Apart from that it has a resounding production, making this one even more desirable. If it wasn’t an older release I’d put his one right up there with the best on my year list. More than recommended.

Written by Henric van Essen

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