NCS likes math metal. In fact, we likes it a lot. Which is why we were stoked to learn that Devolved was planning a new album for 2010 and that, to build some buzz, the band’s new label would be releasing a re-mixed version of their last full-length, 2004’s Calculated. And guess what? The new version of Calculated arrived in our mailbox earlier this week. And guess what? We like it!
The Background: Devolved started in Australia in 1996 and the band released a demo in 1998, and then a full-length in 2001 called Technologies. The Roadrunner Records-affiliated mag Outsider named Technologies Austrialia’s metal abum of the year.
Numerous line-up changes ensued, and eventually Devolved released Calculated in September 2004, with vocals supplied by Nik Carpenter. In early 2005, the band left Australia and moved to Los Angeles. More lineup changes followed, including the addition of vocalist Kyle Zemanek (ex-Five Finger Death Punch and Deathsett).
Then last May, the band signed with Unique Leader Records, and word is out that a new album is projected for release late this year. And as noted above, Unique Leader has now re-released Calculated. Except, the re-issue has been re-mixed and re-mastered and this time includes Zemanek’s vocals instead of Carpenter’s. (more after the jump . . .)
On top of that, the re-issue includes two bonus tracks — a cover of Metallica’s “Battery” (also included on the original release) and a special re-mix of Devolved’s song, “Vex” — plus a video of “Fractured.” The video was filmed, directed and edited by David Brodsky, who has worked with the likes of Suicide Silence, The Black Dahlia Murder, Unearth, All That Remains, and Suffocation.
The songs have held up well despite the passage of six years since their original issue. Most of them are fast-paced and technically intricate, propelled by polyrythmic, staccato bursts of hypersonic drumming, with the bass and the down-tuned guitar playing remarkably in sync with each other and locked into the drum rhythms (reminiscent of earlier-stage Fear Factory).
Devolved makes more use of keyboards than other bands in this sub-genre, but they emerge here and there, rather featuring as a constant presence. At times they pulse in sync with the other instruments, at times they provide a gothic or blackened or ambient interlude as the tempo shifts into lower gears. And at times, the lead guitar injects a doomy, melodic solo. At times, the tempo shits are announced by crushing amplified toms or single bass. And at times, samples are layered into the mix.
In a nutshell, there’s lots of interesting, unexpected instrumental shit going on constantly, but the band still maintains a unifying, headbanging groove on almost all the songs (the dark, down-tempo experimental sound of “Catatonic Ruin” being one exception).
Zemanek’s vocals are integral to the music, and the band benefits from the variation in his vocal range and stylings. At times, he’s barking rapidly, at times he’s shrieking in the upper register, and at times he’s blasting out prolonged gutterals howls.
The bonus cover track of “Battery” is dramatically different from what precedes it — an energetic burst of shredtastic thrash, with a big tip of the hat to Metallica (of course) and Slayer.
I don’t know why it’s taken so long for this band to produce new music — we’ve waited six years just to get a spruced-up re-issue. But if the objective of the re-issue is to remind an American audience of Devolved and build interest in the prospect of a new album later this year, in my case it has certainly been achieved.
I’ve got lots of favorites on this album, but “Fractured” is one of them. Check out the freaky, David Brodksy-directed performance video of that song: