(We give you DGR‘s extensive review of a new album by The Devils of Loudun from the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It was released last Friday by The Artisan Era.)
This is stating the obvious but the first full-length from Seattle, Washington’s keyboard-heavy tech-death crew The Devils Of Loudun feels like it has been a long time coming. The group landed on my personal radar in the mid-2010s around the time of their year-over-year EP releases in 2015 and 2016, and yet since then its been quite the wait for their album Escaping Eternity – out now via The Artisan Era.
Escaping Eternity puts the band in an interesting position. Their brand of neo-classical tech-death shred has become a specialty of their current record label and as a result has them standing side by side with quite a few cohorts. Like releases by many of their label-mates, Escaping Eternity is also a thickly packed album; with nearly seven years between releases The Devils Of Loudun have used what seems to be all of that time creating music – resulting in a ten-song release that pushes close to an hour’s worth of songs.
Make no mistake, The Devils Of Loudun are a tech-death band with a keyboardist and they have absolutely no qualms with putting that dude to work throughout Escaping Eternity. While many bands within the tech-death and deathcore scenes are perfectly willing to have the keys add orchestral and symphonic ambience and flair to their overall sound – sometimes leaving the melodic heavy lifting to what would boil down to a click-track live – The Devils Of Loudun earn a lot of that ‘neo-classical’ tag by tying together their guitarists Scott Hermanns and Drew Tuel with their keyboardist Ben Volozo throughout the album, so that they’re often playing off of each other. With the added orchestral effects and piano flair, The Devils Of Loudun sound more like a band co-operating with a conductor in the orchestra pit than most groups, which yes, at times can sound a bit like an old-time ballroom dance filled to the brim with blastbeats and breakdowns.
Escaping Eternity‘s second song “Ex-Nihilo” is largely responsible for that early impression. Expanding out to a wider scope, it’s actually the first four songs that are high-speed affairs from beginning to end, defty sweeping through just about every styling that the modern tech-death scene has been happy to play with and then slathering a whole bunch of keyboard and guitar leads – themselves seemingly competing in wall-of-note competitions – right on top of it.
It isn’t until “The Death Of Sleep” almost twenty-two minutes in that things get a little brawnier and thudding-guitar-focused. It makes for an interesting dynamic given the amount of showmanship and musical pyrotechnics going on within those first four songs. While “The Death Of Sleep” is no slouch either, it becomes a highlight since it has a few of the sharpest and most hook-filled grooves within it. Much like the album though, it’ll be hard to not dance back and forth between various songs throughout Escaping Eternity given the amount of different things packed into each one.
Elsewhere in the track lineup you have the one-two punch of “Praise The Eternal Nightmare” and “Abysswalker” – the latter seeing vocalist Vance Bratcher swinging for the fences on some high screams after spending much of Escaping Eternity with a weaponized low – both of which are a hell of a pick-up after the album’s third longest song journeys from one end of the album to the other.
Fun fact: The longest track? “Abysswalker”. But, that is a song that also treks to a lot of places in its run-time as The Devils Of Loudun continually find new ways to add different rhythm sections to stack on top of each other like Puzzle Fighter gems so that the keyboards and guitars can run all over it like a bunch of sugar-hyped children. There’s even a handful of times within that specific song where bassist LJ Cline gets to hijack the spotlight – which becomes a more frequent event in the latter half of Escaping Eternity. But a good bass-at-the-forefront section is always enjoyable to see.
The brain is a funny thing and its hard to predict where it will find patterns within music that it arbitrarily latches onto, yet with The Devils Of Loudun‘s newest release it felt like a requirement to pair it up with a similar act in the form of Stockton, CA’s Symbolik and their 2020 release Emergence. Perhaps it’s due to the usage of classical instrumentation alongside all of the keyboard work to accent the pairing’s hyperactive tech-death assault, but there was something in the two band’s releases, in that distinct wall-of-notes and finger-workout lead stylings that found them traveling together more often than not.
With Escaping Eternity under their belt, The Devils Of Loudun have added to an already impressive collection of music alongside their two EPs. However, with this release it seems like the band have really found their footing and are ready to push their sound even further. Escaping Eternity already holds a ton of that promise – even when you consider the metaphorical ton of music already loaded into it – and makes for an exciting spin. While the sphere of this branch of the death metal tree grows more and more crowded by the minute, Escaping Eternity puts in an incredible amount of effort to stand out.
Now to make it so that my phone stops correcting it to ‘London’.