Devil You Know’s The Beauty of Destruction is an orgasm denied. You reach that shining edge and for some reason—maybe you get distracted by the child banging on your bedroom door— it’s all over. No climax and an empty, growly sensation in the pit of your stomach.
There is nothing more frustrating than a huge build up, a taste of foreplay so intriguing and raunchy, that you’re quivering with the expectation of something mind-blowing. That’s what “Shut It Down” did for me. This song gives me gooseflesh. It is the strongest song on the album, their demo release, yet shows up as the 11th of 12 songs.
Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) is a vocal powerhouse. He can scream until your ears bleed and then soothe the delicious pain with his resonant, clean vocals. Francesco Artusato (All Shall Perish) does the same thing with his guitar work. He can lay it down as brutal as you need and then whip out something so heartbreakingly melodic that you smile as you lay shattered on the floor. John Sankey (Devolved) delivers the technical percussive foundation needed to support and complement these two “voices” without overpowering them or underwhelming his work either. This is a metal super group, no question.
I had to wipe away all the hype and come at this objectively. All but one of the heavy tracks is excellent. It’s not Killswitch Engage or All Shall Perish but more like the two had a Metalcore and Melodic Death test-tube baby and injected Technical Death genes into the Petri dish. Jones’ clean vocals figure prominently in most of the choruses but it works a goodly portion of the time. Tracks of note are “A New Beginning,” “My Own”, “Embracing the Torture,” “A Mind Insane,” and of course their signature track, “Shut It Down.” The guitar melodies execute the heavy-lifting without sacrificing the catchy hooks, the screamed vocals juxtapose nicely with the clean, and the drum work is superlative.
On a couple of songs, the screamed verse and the clean chorus didn’t complement each other as well as planned. “Seven Years Alone” and “I Am Nothing” are prime examples. The first listen gets your hopes up for another “Shut It Down” and then the chorus hits. It’s jarring but a few more listens will wipe away that preconception—or not. These two are certain to bring mixed reviews from the listening public.
Then there are the love-lost-or-beaten-with-a-claw-hammer songs. I can almost see Artusato rubbing his hands together in anticipation of blending his melodic guitar work with Jones’ clean, majestic voice. The one place it does work is “As Bright as Darkness,” which has a sinister, Gothic feel with the simple effects on the vocals and guitar and the addition of strings. Naturally, Sankey gives the song a light touch. This experiment did not work “For the Dead and Broken” and “It’s Over.” These songs seemed out of place and sappy—a genetic manipulation gone wrong.
“Crawl from the Dark” walks that fine line between heavy and the softer, melodic themes. This track surprised me with its all clean vocals and screaming accents, Artusato’s signature chord progressions, and Sankey’s restrained fills and flourishes. The bridge doesn’t provide the guitar solo I expected, but Artusato lets loose at the end of the song, which will probably work very nicely live.
“The Killer” was another heavy track but it left me cold with its generic chug-chug guitars and wounded heart lyrics. Flowers die/die in my hand, were the first words of the first verse and I was containing my eye-roll.
There is a lesson in all this. A band should guard their work like a state secret until they are certain of the final product and can orchestrate a proper unveiling. I’m not talking about talent but about strategy. If DYK’s first single had been “Seven Years Alone” they could have held onto their trump in “Shut It Down.” Instead they jumped the gun and ran the risk of obscuring and possibly diminishing the true worth of their work.