Devenial Verdict – Ash Blind Review

Atmospheric and dissonant death metal was my gateway into death more broadly. I missed entirely the blood-and-guts-strewn pathway of Cannibal Corpse, and instead fell head-over-heels for Ulcerate. If I’d come across Finland’s Devenial Verdict in my younger years, I might have passed over them, for their former output has been primarily in the brutal death metal vein. Although they’ve been lurking around since 2009, Ash Blind is their first full-length, representing thirteen years of evolution. A transformation from bludgeoning brutality into darkly melodic, eerily atmospheric dissonance that hasn’t forgotten how to be horrifically heavy. It’s a good thing they’ve taken their time.

Ash Blind sounds, in many ways, like that Lewandowski art looks: huge, sinister, and darkly beautiful. It creeps slowly behind you with oppressive chords and doomy paces. It shrouds you in a reverberating smoke in which hang haunting, mournful guitar refrains. It crushes you with claustrophobic discordant riffs and pummelling percussion—the same drums that at another moment pull you along like a gentle tide with smooth fills. Songs all bleed gently into one another, enhancing the feeling of one fluidly transforming soundscape where all shifts remain natural, inevitable. At points, the music dips into the tangled mire of technical assault but stops a respectable distance from Pyrrhon and Artificial Brain. Its fury is tempered with reflection, a melancholic melodic underbite to even its most vicious moments. In mood, it recalls more closely Destroyers of All era Ulcerate, though Devenial Verdict seem a tad fonder of slower paces than their Kiwi genre brethren.

It’s a cliché to highlight the importance of mood, but Devenial Verdict absolutely nail it by creating their blend of ominous, crushing, yet alluring music. The fragile, near-unaccompanied notes that arise at intervals across the record, that bisect “Hope,” define the title track, and echo, center-stage on instrumental interlude “Mourning Star,” are simply beautiful. Also stunning are the twisting solos that reach toward the sky. “Ash Blind” and “The Contemptor” are examples, but the shining star is the album’s finale at the close of “World Breaker,” a surging apex of tremolo-led riffing and building drums. With a disso-death lurch come hypnotic death-spirals of blastbeats and urgent notes (“Pravum,” “Sun Hammer,” World Breaker”). These are made yet more powerful by the eerie melodies and restlessly shifting doomier passages that surround them. Brooding atmospheres (“Pravum,” “Mourning Star”) or lumbering malice (“Inanition”) soon give way to tangled, fast-paced fury. At other places, ire fades away into spacious, heart-stopping stillness (“Hope”).

As a result of its intelligently balanced, compelling ingredients, Ash Blind fully succeeds in drawing in the listener. It is never too jarring in its dissonance; never too sweet in its pulchritude; never too steady in its beat. On this last point, Okko Tolvanen’s drumming must be highlighted for its hypnotic rhythmic backbone of fluidly shifting, restless energy. It is helped–as are the stellar performances from guitarists Sebastian Frigren and Antti Poutanen and vocalist Riku Saressalo—by the pleasingly rich and spacious production that allows all elements to shine. The record has an immersive and intensely arresting feel, cemented in its omnipresent shimmering hum of atmosphere across which Saressalo’s bark-like growls cut, from which Poutanen’s bass emanates, which Frigren’s riffs rip open, and which Tolvanen’s percussion warps. There is not a note that needs excising. Even that interlude, “Mourning Star,” feels as much an essential part of the musical tapestry as the rest, flowing naturally from “Sun Hammer”‘s echoes and providing a breather before the early assault of “The Contemptor”.

Devenial Verdict have proved their experience and talent with a debut that is as beguiling as it is brutal. Well-worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with releases from more well-known genre peers. Much like the titular dark dusty substance, Ash Blind envelops, and oppresses, yet it does not suffocate. On the contrary, Devenial Verdict have broken fully into the scene like that pillar of fiery light. I wouldn’t recommend turning away from the blaze.


Rating: Great
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: devenialverdictband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/DevenialVerdict
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

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