DEVIL MUSIC by The Men
Genre: Noise Rock, Garage Punk
Favorites: “Crime,” Lion’s Den,” “Patterns,” “Hit the Ground”
Food critics say that we eat with our eyes first; I think the same holds true for listening to music. No matter what platform you use to listen to music outside of the radio, an album cover will be the first thing to greet you. Since they usually don’t have characters or scenes like a movie, they have to find some other way to foreshadow the themes, sounds, and emotions in the music you are about to hear using images.
Upon first seeing DEVIL MUSIC’s cover, I was preparing myself for a metalcore or hardcore punk record a la Nails or Converge. With its harsh black and white colors and schizophrenic image that is horrifying in a way that you can’t quite put your figure on, I was expecting a loud, ferocious listening experience that would melt my face off with its screams and energy. Surprisingly, not many screams are to be found on DEVIL MUSIC, but the experience is as intense, complicated, and overwhelming as the cover itself is.
What immediately separates DEVIL MUSIC from its garage punk peers is how dense it is. The dual lead guitars, bass, and drums are incredibly raw and compressed within a millimeter of their lives like they’re being crushed by a hydraulic press, yet every song and instrument has a crackle and a crunch. Aside from a well-placed eponymous acoustic interlude near the end of the record, DEVIL MUSIC maintains a thick, low-end heavy mix that manages to be oppressive without sacrificing tempo. It sounds like a bunch of friends rocking out in their garage, with the constant threat of a speaker blowing looming over their entire jam session.
The most impressive feat DEVIL MUSIC pulls off is how it manages to be maintain a strong emphasis on melody despite how noisy and chaotic the recording gets, especially on earlier cuts like “Crime” and “Patterns.” No matter how thick the rest of the instrumentation is, the main riffs shine through the mix brilliantly. At times it recalls new wave post-punk bands like The Strokes incorporating noise rock into their sound, somehow pulling off the best of both worlds in its melodic rawness, with the additional sax on “Lions Den” and “Hit the Ground” adding another layer to the power rather than detracting from it.
However, some of the later cuts, especially “Fire” and “Violate,” start to drag and can’t keep up the momentum of the rest of the record. The vocals have the quality of a cell phone recording at a concert and submerge themselves beneath the rest of the music, never quite having the presence to break through. It makes discerning the lyrics near impossible; about the only time they are clear is in the constant repetition regarding “violation” and “penetration” on “Violate.” However, the lyrics were never the focal point of the record, as the band apparently improvised a lot of them.
As I was listening to DEVIL MUSIC, I was somewhat saddened by the idea that it wouldn’t be able to find an audience. People who will appreciate the melody will be scared away by the cover and title, while those enticed by the cover, expecting Dillinger Escape Plan, will be ostracized by the comparatively tame vocals. However, I had a blast listening to DEVIL MUSIC; it wasn’t at all nutritious, but it was exhilarating and intense in the way a garage punk record should be. The band has the dissonant mix and aggressive sound down, and if they tighten up the vocals and songwriting I can’t wait to see what they do next.