If I’ve learned anything from the Metallicas and Carcasses of the world, it’s to leave ’em wanting more. Knowing when to put out a tunneling candle is preferable to producing an nigh unsurpassable album that embarrasses all future output. Any career based on one-upping yourself will likely end in disappointment. Doublestone’s debut Windmakers offered crispy stoner rock, southern fried despite Copenhagen roots. It hooked me enough to come back for seconds, but follow-up Devil’s Own replaced that delicious homemade glaze with Kraft BBQ sauce. Preemptively quitting a burnt out direction is one thing; pulling the meat from the smoker too soon is quite another. Imagine a blend of Wo Fat’s intricate stoner riffs filtered through elements of Black Sabbath doom and Deep Purple organ-grinding hard rock.
If Windmakers pitched a tent at a festival devoted to those amalgams, Devil’s Own unceremoniously pulled up its stakes and backed the van over someone else’s campfire. Gone are Wo Fat and Deep Purple, though the Sabbath sticks around initially on the riffs of “War Machine,” though they pale in comparison next to Doublestone’s previous offerings. The ensuing verse section, like the release overall, straddles “tedious” and “mellow,” the expected riff brisket destined to be delivered by a waiter named Godot. Brief, receding vocal Ozzyisms do good to allow the axes freedom later in the track, but this respite is all too brief. The following riffs of “Here Comes the Serpent” are more psych-rock than doom or stoner, barely filling, let alone nourishing. The direction, the track, the album as a whole present a disappointing buffet of side dishes and never includes the meat to weigh down the plate.
Fuzzy riff-centricity; echoed vox; southern stylings; all the ingredients are present. But the degree of simplicity is ramped up by a factor of ten, leaving the riffs impotent and excising the energy that made Windmakers so enticing. Entrancing tendrils occasionally waft from the smoker, as “Man on the Hill” offers the closest thing to a highlight, but it’s a far cry from the constant engagement of their earlier material. The album places muted emphasis on heaviness, not unheard of given that this is stoner rock, not stoner metal. However, the groovy boogie of Windmakers’ axes swallowed a lot of room, the weight an unintended side effect of their beefy production. The space of Devil’s Own lends a folkier feel, pumping up the drums and bass at the expense of the guitar. The echoes of Bo Blond’s vocals recall the zonked out psychedelics of the 60s and 70s, heightened by the near-constant presence of cousin Kristian Blond’s backing tones. While the vocals may not be profoundly changed in quality from last time, the shifting sands of Devil’s Own puts them front and center. Shifting to Danish lyrics in the album’s second half only accentuates this folky feeling, ushered in by the trotting twang of “Djævlens Egn.”
Part of my issue with the album stems from a lack of the weight that their prior album used to great effect. But on a neutral scale, Doublestone lean into a much improved production capped by the master of doom/stoner veteran Tony Reed (Mos Generator). This pays immediate dividends in the form of Devil’s Own’s measured dose of fuzz, well-positioned mix, and crystal-clear DR10. Doublestone clearly wanted a lighter stroke here than on Windmakers and, stylistic implications aside, the benefits are noticeable. The three-piece comes across with a surprisingly even distribution, making for interesting listening. Likewise, the album is well-trimmed and focused. Individual performances are solid, and the songs maintain a consistent central thread in easy-to-consume rock formats. With all the window dressings intact, it’s a shame that the core product lacks the potency and energy of its predecessor. Devil’s Own is never bad, just frustrating lackluster.
In the end, it’s hard to fault the execution of the band. Perhaps the Danes viewed Windmakers as an adequate start but Devil’s Own has elevated them into the folky psych rock outfit they’ve always hoped to be. Were their positions reversed, with Devil’s Own the debut and Windmakers the successful follow-up, the band would be in a fantastic position moving forward. Instead, Doublestone leave me wanting more, but for all the wrong reasons.