Devangelic – Xul Review

If I’m being completely honest, I snatched up Xul from underneath the illustrious Kronos because of that artwork. I’ve held a special place in my heart for Devangelic, of course, as one craves banging one’s head into a wall periodically, but the massiveness of the artwork is the best representation of this Italian quartet. While the reach exceeded the grasp in the concept albums of years past in the Anunnaki reverence of Ersetu and Dante’s Inferno-inspired Phlegethon, third album Xul keeps things simple. While the Sumerian theme of Ersetu spills across, the emphasis is brutalizing. And brutalizing, as mother always said, is best.

The artwork is the best representation: a monster of brutal death, with Sumerian ruins in the background. The result is no longer the string of 2.0s they earned from Kronos but the best album of their career – albeit a low bar. Devangelic embraces the concept of “xul” or simply “evil” or “evil god” in the Sumerian language. This ambiguity lends itself to the music, which, as always, is reliably blistering and unforgiving – but far more focused in its tight songwriting. Blazing riffs, chunky slams, wild solos, and unforgiving gutturals greet the ears in true brutal death fashion, punctuated by moments of classical guitar and hints of atmosphere. Old habits die hard, and while Devangelic offers far from the best album of the year, Xul still warrants a spin for the concussion cravers among you.

The biggest complaint of Devangelic’s catalog is its mismatched priorities. Phlegethon and Ersetu were billed as explorations into their respective themes, but focused almost entirely on run-of-the-mill and frankly boring brutal death metal. In this way, the quartet has long been stuck between a brutal death metal rock and an exotic theme hard place – Xul sees them accomplishing the best balance of their career. “Worship of the Black Flames” is the best track here, balancing pummeling death metal with excerpts of classical guitar morphing into trademark blasting seamlessly, conjuring the ferocity and majesty of Xul’s artwork. Meanwhile, longer tracks like “Udug-Hul Incantation” and “Sa Belet Ersetim Ki’Am Parsusa” are benefitted by their more fleshed-out length, riding the line neatly between blistering riffs and blastbeats with sticky slams and meat-headed rhythms. “Which Shall Be the Darkness of the Heretic” and “Sirius Draconis Capricornus” feature a dark feel that melds nicely with the pummel, and the atmospheric interludes “Famine of Nineveh” and “Hymn of Savage Cannibalism” are evocative, if not short-lived.

While the album and its riffs are simply built better than their previous incarnations, Devangelic nonetheless is stuck in its rut of making several of its brutal death interpretations feel hollow and purposeless. “Scribes of Xul,” “Ignominious Flesh Degradation,” and “Shadows of the Iniquitous” feel doomed from the start, relying on predictably heavy but extremely monotone palm-muted chugging paired with relentless blastbeats – completely devoid of texture or variation. While these are the most suspect, every song falls into similar trappings, featuring the same tired tricks; it is simply that Xul’s highlights or atmospheric interludes occur in just the right spots to avoid excessive monotony – feeling like a mask rather than genuine quality. While I think that Devangelic’s songwriting is far better than in previous incarnations, old habits die hard and mindless chugging paired with ambitious concepts remains a puzzling juxtaposition.

I can probably congratulate Devangelic, not only for the absolutely best album of their career but for their impressive ability to mask astounding mediocrity with crafty song placement. They really should make more songs like “Worship of the Black Flames,” which seems like a step in the right direction. Priorities are slightly better on Xul, which attempts to temper its frankly bland brutal death direction with some exotic flare, but Devangelic still has a long way to go to stop tripping over their own left feet.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Willowtip Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: 
April 7th, 2023

« »