Al’s Audio Guide to… #3: Devil Sold His Soul!
In the third part of a brand new series we’ve got Weaponry vocalist Al Bristow to talk about some of the lesser lights of heaven in the Metal scene. You know, the ones who never got the credit they deserved? So his third pick from mini bar that is Planet Metal is Devil Sold His Soul…
When you think of the scene that Devil Sold His Soul came from it would be strange to think that any of them were to go on and receive massive worldwide mainstream success. But then again, Bring Me The Horizon aren’t exactly a deathcore band anymore and Architects only really play songs from their last 2 or 3 albums when they play live with a couple of older hits thrown in for good measure. These two bands have made it massive and maybe changing up their style had a lot to do with it. Devil Sold His Soul on the other hand still bang out classic after classic from their debut as well as a whole mix from all other releases. They started different, there was no need to change to a more original sound – they had it in their back pocket from day one. When the first album 2007’s “A Fragile Hope” starts, you knew back then, and you know now, it’s Devil Sold His Soul.
It’s atmospheric, melodic, post-metal, almost black metal in parts. Real care is taken over making sure instruments are played well and the music crafted intelligently, but not to the extremes of tech metal, while also clearly concentrating on those catchy hooks that pull people in. Listen to “Awaiting The Flood” and it ticks all the above boxes. There’s the incredible drumming at the beginning and then Ed Gibbs on vocals sounds like he’s definitely got black and white face paint, black hair and a big black furry coat on (he doesn’t, he’s just a regular dude in hoodies and sneakers). Then the guitars take over and get your head banging. The song loops around and falls over you – some backing choral singing comes in and takes you on a journey. It builds up to a huge crescendo and sounds like it ends but then it comes back with some electronic sounds and it loops back round again for another pass and you feel like you’re in a chase scene in a movie. That is the beauty of DSHS, it’s like they write songs not to say something but to be something. Listen to “Hope“. That is not a song designed to be smashed out on a drive time radio show, even though it would be perfect for it! It might even sound out of place on Daniel P Carter’s rock show due to the long instrumental intro, even though it’s perfect for it also. You’ve got almost 3 minutes of scene building before the vocals come in. This time it’s actual singing mixed with screaming. It builds and builds before telling the story in a short burst and then it drifts away in a beautiful piano outro. If you want hooks, put on “Dawn on the First Day“. You’ll never forget the main riff. And you’ll be happy about it.
2010’s “Blessed & Cursed” was the second album from Devil. There’s definitely less black metal vocals and more long epic scene building. Brilliantly crafted, incredible music that’s heavy as hell and full of screaming but you can relax to it. It just blows my mind how you even come up with that idea let alone make it work. “Frozen” is a real summary of what this album has. It’s soft and enduring, with slightly haunting vocals. It builds and builds and builds. For almost 8 minutes it holds you in place and afterwards it feels like it’s only been 2. Heavy / Metal / Hardcore bands don’t do this. But Devil do, and they are stunning at it. I feel if metal was the mainstream music of the world and when a kid gets to about 13 and wants to rebel by listening to classical music, Devil Sold His Soul would be their gateway band. Like how Busted were for all those N*Sync fans who now love a bit of Behemoth 20 years later.
“Callous Heart” is another great song here. With a similar start to “Frozen” initially, it switches it up very quickly and a pounding head banger comes hurtling into view. This is another world crafted in a song. It tells a tale in just over 6 minutes. What looked to be the last album with Ed Gibbs on vocals was the bands third album, 2012’s “Empire Of Light“. Opening with “No Remorse, No Regrets” followed by “A New Legacy“, this album feels more uplifting than previous outings. The euphoric, atmospheric sound is still very present and it’s quite clear they were getting more experienced at writing songs like this at this point in their career. They should have been, this is their sound! “End Of Days” finishes this record and it’s almost 10 minutes long. The first 4 or 5 minutes are crushing but when it quietens down and slowly comes back in it’s so peaceful, and then uplifting. It’s such a change from the beginning of the song but it is seamlessly linked together. This is a really amazing song and the whole album is incredible.
Devil Sold His Soul have released 2 EPs with their 3 albums, one two years before the first album called “Darkness Prevails” which includes fan favourite “Like It’s Your Last“. Some songs do sound a little rougher than the albums that followed it but that’s to be expected for a first recording. It’s still a solid record though. The second EP was the first (and maybe the last) EP or album without Ed Gibbs. Paul Green from The Arusha Accord joined the band when Ed left and took on main vocal duties for “Belong Betray“. The EP is as good as anything DSHS have released and includes one of their best songs, “Time“. The intro sets you up for the vibe of the song and when it kicks in it’s got one of those unmistakable Devil Sold His Soul signature riffs. Paul Green steps up to the plate and destroys it on the entire record, but this song shows how perfect he is for this band. His screams and cleans are reminiscent of Ed’s without feeling like he’s just trying to straight up rip him off. Green adds his own touch to proceedings and it is well done.
Brilliantly, when DSHS toured to promote the 10 year anniversary of the debut “A Fragile Hope“, Gibbs joined the band and shared vocal duties with Green. They all enjoyed it so much that Gibbs has now re-joined the band alongside Green and they are busy writing and recording their 4th album with 2 vocalists. How can a band who are obviously very talented musicians who write such incredible songs not be noticed? Here’s the thing, they clearly are. They may not be playing Architects size shows or getting number one selling albums like Bring Me The Horizon, but If you go to any local Metal or Metalcore show in the UK, you will hear loads of Devil Sold His Soul’s influence. In a time when a band like Deafheaven are receiving Grammy nominations for “Honeycomb”, it’s not bizarre to suggest DSHS deserve the same recognition. That song could probably fit on any Devil Sold His Soul album and Devil are putting out songs just as good as it, if not better. Give Devil their dues people.