With a name like "The Thousandfold Epicentre," it probably goes without saying that the new album from The Devil's Blood is not to be taken likely. I feel no shame in admitting to you that this review has taken me longer than any review I have ever composed. The album is a dense tapestry of elements both sanguine and chaotic, hypnotic and variable, fragile and durable. After the fifth time through this album, I looked back at my collected notes to see what thoughts I would put to paper. My scrawled, hand-written missives were an early indication of the myriad of ideas I was attempting to tame in clumsy, written words.
"The Thousandfold Epicentre" is capable of alluring visions, a veritable siren's song of majesty and grace. Yet, lurking beneath all of those airy tones and major chords is an ever-present shadow, a sinister darkness that speaks to the rocks in the (Rhein/Rhine) river should you allow yourself to be ensnared by the band's spell. The album is metaphorically akin to the story of Nosferatu; an outwardly decadent (albeit decaying) castle that hides a shambling, diseased monster to be discovered.
If those sound like impossibly melodramatic and lyrical comparisons between what is only a corporeal collection of music and the basis of man's greatest folklore, then we're finally all on the right track. For it is exactly in that way that The Devil's Blood wants their newest conjuration to be considered. Not necessarily for it's classic rock inspired, echo-of-Blue-Oyster-Cult guitar tone, or for its occasional passing resemblance to Rush's "2112" and other mildly progressive works of the mid-to-late 1970's, but on the merits of the uneasy emotional mix it cooks up and the wispy, exotic visions it wishes to evoke.
Compare for example, the tracks "Wings of Gloria" and "Madness of Serpents." The former begins with flighty progressions and the up-tempo anticipatory strains of impending celebration, while the latter closes with the uneasy, monstrous lurch of dreadful demise.
In between those two ends is "She," a single brought to life by the simplest of heartbeat gallops and sensible rock and roll ideals. Beneath all the incense and blood and ritualistic chaos lies this truest heart of "The Thousandfold Epicentre." The album is, when all else fades, a love letter to classic rock.
The fact that "The Thousandfold Epicentre" can craft and weave such intricate musical tales without going off the progressive deep end is a testament to the diligence of The Devil's Blood in making an album that is both transfixing and accessible. The album is equally at home under the auspices of the theater gods as it is those of rock and metal.
The downside to the blended elements of the album is that the songs have a tendency to get lost in themselves. Intent on unrestrained wandering and musical experimentation, songs like the title track carry on too long, while other tracks like "Everlasting Saturnalia" don't make a lot of sense. As a result, roughly a third of the album's cuts are entirely skippable or done better somewhere else on the album.
Plus, it bears repeating how unexpectedly complicated this album can be. It is not for those without patience and certainly not for those demanding immediate satisfaction. There are no saccharine moments, no artificial sweetness, no easy extractions.
If you're in the mood for an intelligent album that leans heavily on its 1960's and '70's rock influences, including a healthy dose of experimental phrasing and loose structures, then The Devil's Blood has pumped out an effort worth your time. It is carefully crafted and dutifully presented, and not for those without the time to dedicate to it.