Devil with No Name – Devil with No Name Review

Know how some bands seem to arrive fully formed? Like they had a cohesive sound and vision from the beginning, just waiting to find expression? Maybe their early work was shaggy and rough around the edges, but the underlying ideas were there, obvious to discerning and jaundiced eyes alike. Well… Devil with No Name is not one of those bands. Arriving with all the clarity of a Vaseline-smeared contact lens, “musically focused” is not a phrase likely to grace any reviews of theirs. But you will find other complimentary adjectives instead. A newly formed trio from the US, these guys are fans of spaghetti Westerns. Such fans, in fact, that the band name is fashioned after Clint Eastwood’s character—“The Man with No Name”—from Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy.” The music is inspired by the “harsh and exhausting” desert summers of the wild, wild west. Now, I’m no expert on Westerns (and haven’t seen the movies mentioned above), but the expansive, remorseless heat of the desert seems like an interesting concept for a black metal band to explore. We’re used to frigid Scandinavian wastelands and endless night. What about a lone renegade in the blistering heat?

Devil with No Name, the eponymous first… er… effort from these guys, is probably an EP that sneakily slipped through the AMG promo filter. The 11th commandment has always been “Don’t Get Caught,” and Devil with No Name wasn’t, so here we are. Consisting of four songs, and clocking in at around 20 minutes,1 it combines mid-paced black metal with some death metal and black ‘n’ roll, sprinkled with a topping of doom. This sound is hardly original, but like a saloon in a dusty town, it doesn’t need to be flashy, it just needs to quench the parched throat. Devil with No Name does that, but there are a few reasons you may still be feeling thirsty afterwards.

The first impressive thing about Devil with No Name is how tight it sounds. Both the songwriting and the instrumentation bear the hallmarks of a much more experienced band.  For a trio of newbies, these guys bounce off, and complement, each other very impressively. Both “Grand Western Apostasy” and “Sycophants of the Covenant” use dissonant chords, intertwined with the usual black metal tropes, to create impressively ominous and foreboding landscapes. “Alleluia” and “Monad,” by contrast, are more conventionally black ‘n’ roll, but work just as well. The latter song is a particular highlight, mixing in some doom to add flavor to the chorus. Throughout the album, Cody Stein’s machine-like drumming is not flashy, but it keeps everything rolling along in military-discipline fashion. Andrew Markusewski’s throat-shredding vocals add texture to the already impressive atmosphere. Overall, the effect is harsh and brutal. These are tight, interesting, darkly compelling tracks.

The downside to Devil with No Name is the lack of any clear identity. The band borrows a whole lot of elements from other bands, but like a kid at a mix-‘n’-match candy store, it seems unable to decide which ones it actually likes. So it throws them all together in the hope that the bag will be delicious. The individual bits are just fine, but the kid would be hard-pressed to say what made that particular bag unique. In theory, the ‘spaghetti western’ thing is the glue that holds these ideas together, but if you had told me this was inspired by the frigid landscapes of, say, Eastern Russia, I would’ve believed you. Which is to say that nothing in the music itself matches the lofty concept of the liner notes. In addition, whether it actually is an EP or not, the album feels like one: a warm-up to a much meatier project coming soon, not a fully-fledged collection ready to stand on its own two feet.

Devil With No Name is very much the sound of a debut. But a debut by a very interesting band. Its concepts are ambitious, the musicians sound hungry and disciplined, and the riffs are crushing. Like many debuts, however, it is also all over the place, stuffing multiple genres into 20 minutes without ever committing to any of them. Like a wandering Clint Eastwood, Devil with No Name is desperately searching… searching for a clear sound. Sometimes the band gets lost, but the journey is never less than compelling. I suspect, when they find some focus, we could be in for a real treat.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: New Density
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 22nd, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yep, that one slipped through the promo sluice. Heads will roll! – Steel
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