Written by Ellis Heasley
Devil Sold His Soul – Loss
Post metal from London, UK
Released April 9th, 2021
Via Nuclear Blast Records
Music has long provided a powerful outlet for feelings of loss and grief. Of course, that makes a lot of sense; it’s something all of us go through, including the artists we love, so it’s only natural that many would want to express those experiences through their music. The list of great works inspired by these themes is long and spans pretty much every genre, with several prime examples from the last few years alone. These include the consecutive masterpieces of Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Touché Amoré’s devastating Stage Four, and We Lost The Sea’s critically-acclaimed Departure Songs. Devil Sold His Soul don’t have loads to do with those artists, although there is perhaps a touch of commonality with the latter two, but their new album Loss is definitely another such record. Specifically, it’s a work heavily influenced by the loss of several of the band’s family members in the years it was being put together, and one that carries a serious emotional weight as a result.
The hefty subject matter is well-matched to the band’s music, and something they’ve been an obvious fit for a while now. For those unfamiliar, theirs is a potent mix of post metal, post-hardcore and metalcore that leans heavily on atmospherics, soundscapes and a powerful sense of melody. Loss, their first album in nine years, definitely carries on with that established and expansive sound. This record sounds absolutely gigantic. The production, handled by the band’s own Jonny Renshaw, is pretty much flawless, with their already weighty core accentuated by various synths, strings and textures. It’s an approach that bears similarities to last year’s Sleepless by Palm Reader – something which doesn’t just stop at the production but extends to the music as well.
The album clocks in at just over a full hour, but honestly it doesn’t feel anywhere near that. This is because the standard is invariably high, with specific highlights coming thick and fast. It starts with the back-to-back brilliance of the opening tracks “Ardour” and “Witness Marks.” Both definitely set the scene for the record, with massive crushing riffs and emotional clean vocal choruses. The latter also features the first of several moments of stirring post-rock-esque build which appear on Loss. Another highlight is the album’s fourth track “Tateishi”, which boasts a towering and moving intro whose simple melody reappears at multiple points throughout the song. So too is sixth track “Beyond Reach” – an obvious choice for the album’s lead single given its particularly high levels of energy and huge clean vocal sing-alongs.
Loss is particularly notable as the first Devil Sold His Soul album to feature dual vocals from Ed Gibbs and Paul Green. Gibbs had served as the band’s initial vocalist, including on their 2007 career high A Fragile Hope, while Green was brought in to replace him in 2013, performing on various singles and EPs over the past eight years. The band had been touring with both vocalists since 2017’s A Fragile Hope anniversary tour, so it makes sense that the two of them would play off one another nicely as they do here. Their two voices provide the album with a nice sense of variation – not to mention some solid harmonies – but it’s probably worth acknowledging that their extensive use of cleans in particular might not be for everyone.
Perhaps the song which sees Gibbs and Green shine the most is the album’s closing title track. For the most part this one sees the band take a backseat, leaving a piano and a few effects to back each vocalist as they deliver mournful and heartfelt verses and a devastating chorus of (You’re in every memory that I own/And I’d give up all I have to make another one with you/You’re in every memory that I own/And I hope we’ll meet again). The intensity kicks up a notch around the halfway mark, with the full band coming in for an epic and emotional final crescendo that rounds out the album perfectly.
There’s no question Loss is a heavy album, both musically and thematically, but there’s also no denying that there’s something quite powerfully uplifting about a lot of it. Much of this is certainly down to the band’s impressive command of melody, not just from the vocalists, but in the music itself as well. The guitars in particular often have a real soaring and beautiful quality, and it’s hard not to find this quite moving. Overall, it makes for a triumphant return for Devil Sold His Soul, and one that should hopefully and finally see them getting the credit they deserve as an essential feature of the UK underground over the past couple of decades.