Album Review: The Devastated - "The Devil's Messenger"
Century Media records signed The Devasted based on a two-song demo. That is an incredible roll of the dice by an established music industry veteran, and a gamble that leaves little middle ground – it will either pay off handsomely, or result in the termination of the label’s association with the band.
The Devastated, for their part, want you the listener to believe that there’s more going on here than just another death metal band with a road grader for a singer and their distortion turned way up past eleven. The band wants you to dive into their new offering “The Devil’s Messenger” and find both the humor and the inherent snarky cynicism that they’ve threaded through the album.
The band takes on an affect that is indeed unique (or passably close to it,) for the genre, attempting to bridge the seemingly impassable gap between modern death metal and humor, that if not light-hearted, is at least passably sarcastic. The Devastated also attempt to sprinkle their album with a fine sheen of party atmosphere, not terribly different from that of veterans Municipal Waste. The entire effort is represented at first blush by the finely detailed and high-quality cover art, which looks a little like Dr. Seuss through the eyes of H.R. Giger.
It would have been an easy step for The Devastated to simply produce another effort that pounded out percussion and catered to the mass American metal audience, but they didn’t take that road. Rather than rely on the double kick to carry the day, the band’s songs are colored instead with dominating riffs of sizeable fury, if perhaps not focus. While not entirely distancing themselves from the field by that decision alone, it’s nice to hear a band who believes that their sound can be just as vicious without being numbing. You need not listen to more than “Blood Bag Drag” to come to that understanding.
“The Devil’s Messenger” is filled with quality sections of organized chaos, ranging from the stuttering cadence of “Pseudo Smile Campaign,” to the mosh pit instigation of “Roof Top Party Drop.” In these moments is when the Devastated shows glimmers of their potential.
Unfortunately, not all of that potential is converted to listenable product on this album. The presence of both growled and shrieked vocals does little to aid in comprehension of the album’s humor or main themes. I have always been somewhat mystified by this decision with many different artists, but I find it particularly curious in this situation, where The Devastated are trying to emphasize their lyricism.
Apart from that, the album, outside of the nicely paced sections mentioned earlier, carries a little long in the tooth and is in danger of being a ho-hum affair by the end of the record. There’s not a ton of differentiation between tracks, depending on your ability as a listener to discern between tempo and vocals. “The Devil’s Messenger” is sort of a two-trick pony, oscillating between high speed metal battery and riff-driven, sludgy assault.
To try and walk the line between modern metal of this type and a sort of satirical and/or honest humor is a difficult place to tread. Bands like The Devastated and Dr. Acula are experimenting with translating the comedy metal trend that carried through the late 80’s for a new millennium, with mixed results. There is value to be had on “The Devil’s Messenger,” between the crushing riffs and refreshing reliance on guitars to bear the load of the music. That said, this effort, while it shows sparks for the future, seems incomplete in the present.