(In the following review our writer DGR provides impressions of the latest discharge of brutality by the Italian death metal band Devangelic. Adorned with cover art by Nick Keller, the album is out now on Willowtip Records.)
We don’t really have much of a mission statement at NoCleanSinging. We have an About page that delves into some of the things that drive us but overall, as we’ve aged, the ideas that fuel this site have either matured or become, as one of our fellow writers coined it, “well intentioned chaos”. That means for all the agents in the world, all of the PR pushes, and all of the news aggregation that we do privately, it’s very hard to tell what may actually make it through the net.
Sometimes we cover a well-known and popular band and other times a group whose social media reach may be in the single digits due to literally just starting out and one of us morons happened to be wandering by the apartment they were recording in that day. However, if there were a band you had to nominate as falling well within the NoCleanSinging wheelhouse you would probably do well by picking Italy’s death metal brutalizers Devangelic.
They’re a group whose format has been so rigid they’ve become the bedrock of a brutal death metal genre and one of the few whose music fully captures the sort of geologic plate-shifting one might want out of this style. You hit play and it is just a constant rush of low-end, with the occasional china cymbal to break things up and signal that a particular ass-beating might’ve ended. Devangelic are one of those groups who’re so relentlessly and constantly heavy that it is overwhelming. Very few bands can match the world-destroying behemoth portrayed on the cover art – for better or for worse – quite like Devangelic do on Xul.
Devangelic launch Xul in much the same way they launched their previous album Ersetu, with a big ominous riff and then right into the concrete-scraping-against-concrete vocal stylings wherein you’re sure at some point the vocalist will have uttered words like “Which shall be the darkness of the heretic”, but much like Spain’s Wormed will claim that there’s about seventeen words a second happening within their songs; you’re not a thousand percent sure that it isn’t just one giant infernal bellow meant to be another layer of sound on top of the already beefy low-end the band employ.
If you’re listening to Xul and this is your first time with Devangelic‘s brand of continent-colliding style of death metal, get ready to hear a whole lot of ‘eeeeeuuuuuuurrrrrggggghhhh’ to highlight whenever a song shifts. If you’ve been a lucky member of the club that happens to catch their releases every two-and-a-half to three years, this has long since been your comfort zone. You’re likely here because you know that how Devangelic sound on opener “Scribes Of Xul” is the same basic form they’re going to take on closer “Sa Belet Ersetem Ki’am Parsusa” a half hour later.
It’s big, burly guitar chugs for drummer Marco Coghe to hammer along behind; otherwise it’s headspinning guitar riffs that are so quickly picked that it’s not so much angular as it is a ball of porcupine quills that bassist Alessio Pacifici tethers to the ground while vocalist Mario Di Giambattista tidally groans over the top of it.
If it seems like the emphasis on Devangelic‘s Xul is that they sound massive, well, that’s kind of the point. Much like how Nile have songs that get by on sheer heft – both musically and in title form – Devangelic are content to have a handful of songs that get by just by throwing their weight around. The heavyweights like “Udug-Hul Incantation” and “Shadows Of The Iniquitous” are both ceaseless storms, one built around a gigantic leaviathan thrashing against the waves style groove and the follower being your more explosive traditional strip-mining in death metal form.
That’s why it seems pragmatic that the band slip in two interstitials in the form of “Famine Of Nineveh” and “Hymn Of Savage Cannibalism” to do the scene-setting every three songs. Otherwise this would just be a whole album of listening to a big car idling its engine, wherein the extremity becomes the norm and, as many will tell you, even the heftiest ‘norm’ quickly becomes dull and starts to run long. Breaking it up so that a song like “Sirius, Draconis, Capicornus” can hit that much harder is a smart move. Most of the songs within Xul run about four-to-five minutes as well, and “Sirius…” fully slots into that format like most of its brethren. The only outlier there is the song “Ignominous Flesh Degradation”, wherein clocking under three minutes with a maddening guitar solo is almost appreciated for brevity alone.
Devangelic reflect the opposite side of the coin of the death metal sphere. While the shinier fretboard pyrotechnics often command a lot of the headlines – and yours truly remains a sucker for it to this day – the utter brutality of it is still the core of that style’s sound. The riffwork is still deft and requires a whole hell of a lot of skill to play, but all of it contributes to making the band sound larger than a city and one that could leave a footprint the size of a country were it to take a single step. It isn’t so much just a serving of red meat when it comes to Devangelic as it is getting the entire slab with the rest of the animal ‘maybe’ still attached.
Xul is a big, beastly, heavy album that sounds much like what Devangelic have served up before with Ersetu and Phlegathon. They deal in massive releases wherein subtlety is left in a shuddering heap within thirty seconds of the first song and the next forty minutes or so are occupied by a razor-storm of guitar, blasting rhythm section, and vocals that could be measured in Richter scale movement.
It’s pretty impressive that Italian death metal still has such a distinctive regional sound. There aren’t many subgenres/subscenes of metal left where you can hear a band and almost with certainty peg it to a country.
Another country whose bands often share a distinctive sound is Greece.
If nothing else we’ve gotten very good at identifying a particular type of drummer