Devilskin – Be Like the River
Label: Devilskin Ltd.
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Devilskin is quickly attracting attention for all the right reasons. Not because they hail from New Zealand, where not a lot of high-profile musical talent comes readily to mind. Not because they have a stunning blonde Goddess fronting the band. Queue up the female-fronted rhetoric and metal misogyny. They are turning heads because of the band’s mammoth knack for writing memorable, hard-rocking tunes that manage to blend the best of classic and modern influences into something worth jamming into your jaded earholes.
The Hamilton-based quartet came together in 2010 with vocalist Jennie Skulander joining forces with her brother-in-law Paul Martin (bass) and nephew Nic Martin (drums). Guitarist Nail squares off the line-up and bears a strikingly disturbing likeness to Paul. They are tabbed as evil twins.
The band dropped its debut album, We Rise in 2014, and exploded into one of the biggest acts in New Zealand. Their album quickly reached Gold and then platinum status. This winter the band has unleashed its sophomore record, Be Like the River. An album that sounds like both a continuation of and a progression from their highly acclaimed debut.
The record features 13 tracks, with the punchy “In the Black” kicking it all off. The band doesn’t waste time on wasted intros as the songs opens in a crush of Skullander’s vocals, Nail’s pistoning riffage and the Martin family rhythm section bouncing beneath it all. The song is a fluid blend of rolling harmonies over dark melody.
“Mountains” delivers a sense of cinematic flair, all emphasized by Skulander’s powerfully emotive voice. Here and throughout the record, she manages to be equal parts soulful nectar and growling bombast. The guitars and bass chug along, with the drums driving the song forward. The breakdown at the 2:30 mark is a nice shift to help set up the ascending return.
Serving as the album’s first single, “Pray” plays into a 90s post-grunge vibe while also tapping into something of a symphonic metal swell. There are even some death metal growls thrown in for texture. The track has so many elements flowing through it, it’s easy to understand why they chose it as calling card for the record.
The band shifts tempo for the weighty Heart-like rocker, “Voices,” which emphasizes Skulander’s ability to use her voice to make the lyrics resonate with a visceral honesty. She manages to be authoritative and moving at the same time. Powerful is an understatement.
Each track on the album holds its own, standing separate from the others while also maintaining a cohesiveness often missing on full-length albums these days. From the sweeping and soaring “Believe in Me” and the playful “F.Y.I.,” to the grind and grace of “Bury Me” and the groove-centric “Grave,” Devilskin revels in creating a feel of twisted grandiosity and charismatic nuance.
Propulsive rockers like “House 13” and album closer, “We Rock” contrast perfectly against the album’s moodier moments such as “Animal” and the ballad, “Closer.” Then there is “Limb,” a song offering something of a dramatic affair with some Gothic subtlety.
On first listen, Be Like the River draws you in. With repeated listens, Devilskin sink the hook. Be Like the River is an addictive affair full of insidious melody and ear-candy addiction. The band is already a household name in New Zealand, and Devilskin’s sophomore album is a declaration to the world that soon their name will be on your lips and entrenched in your cranium as well. Easily a year-end, Best of 2016 contender.