It was a cold day in 2001 when I decided to dive headfirst into Dimmu Borgir. Like many metal fans before me, there is that day you feel obligated to hear Dimmu. And at that time, there was so much hype surrounding them, I had no choice but to check ’em out. The funniest part about it was that I was already a big fan of Cradle of Filth – and it right then that drummer Nick Barker was leaving his English brethren for those studded Norwegians, which was considered blasphemy by the Filthy masses. After diehard CoF fans screamed insults at Barker for jumping ship to Borgir, I couldn’t help but check in on him via Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. I remember being immediately enraptured by the disc and it still represents one of those “right place, at the right time” albums for me. Though I felt ashamed of myself for enjoying the new Dimmu release over the newest CoF release (Midian), my love for these two bands was quick to dwindle with Deathcult Armageddon and Damnation and a Day. Though Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth continue to deliver some decent material, I struggle to find that initial pleasure I once felt with releases like Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Spiritual Black Dimensions, Dusk and Her Embrace, and Cruelty and the Beast. But, I recently discovered a musical venture of Dani Filth’s I had no idea existed—one that I am rather enjoying.
After hearing 2014’s debut, The Great and Secret Show, I couldn’t pass up Devilment‘s newest release, II – The Mephisto Waltzes. It’s gothy, it’s groovy, and it’s coated in peeling layers of high-pitched shrieks and gentle female vox. Though the band shares some inevitable similarities with Cradle of Filth, Devilment‘s theatrics are more controlled and their delivery is less over-the-top than CoF. What this means is Devilment are much more accessible than Filth. Which isn’t a bad thing. With it comes a little more variation in the vocals (or maybe they’re just more stripped down?) and a more headbangable delivery. His voice goes well with the music and I think The Great and Secret Show is proof that it works.
Does Filth rasp, growl, and falsetto on the Devilment‘s debut and sophomore release? Well, yeah. But, there’s a different vibe here versus Cradle. Within seconds of the guns a-blazin’ attack from opener “Judas Stein,” you’ll understand exactly what I mean. It’s a groovy track topped with a hooking chorus and riffs that’ll grab you by the balls while Filth screams sweet nothings into your ear (don’t lie, you like it). And, for the most part, the album pretty much rides the rails at the pace of the opener. “Shine on Sophie Moone” and “Life Is What You Keep from the Reaper,” in particular, have some crushing moments that one-up the opener. The one-up-ems come via the songs’ journeys through realms of creeping, whispering vox, alternating male/female vocal arrangements, and loads of key-driven atmospheres. Everything a growing gother needs.
Other standout tracks on Waltzes are “Hitchcock Blonde” and “Full Dark, No Stars.” The former track because it kicks ass, the latter song because of its serenity. “Hitchcock Blonde” uses similar vocal accents as the opener, exaggerating each strum and beat, but with the most addictive chorus on the record. It’s also the first track of the album that we get a full dose of Lauren Francis. Her beautiful voice adds layers to her Raunchy-like keyboard work, while acting as a fitting partner to Filth’s barks and shrieks. But “Full Dark, No Stars” is where Francis shines (followed closely by “Entangled in Our Pride”). Gentle key strokes open the track as Francis takes the lead on this roller-coaster ride of emotion. It ascends, it descends, the guitars chug, the piano sings, and a Filth/Francis duet dominates the chorus. It’s nothing new if you are familiar with CoF tracks like “Nymphetamine (Overdose),” but it’s a pleasant song.
The biggest issue I have with II – The Mephisto Waltzes is that it’s not as good as its predecessor. But, in II‘s defense, it’s hard to beat Devilment classics like “Summer Arteries,” “Even Your Blood Groups Reject Me,” “Mother Kali,” and “Sanity Takes a (Perfect) Zero.” We still get those same stomping riffs from the debut, we see even more from Francis, we continue to hear more random instances of Filth-turns-Dez Fafara, and we get our fill of hooks. But, for some reason, it doesn’t work as well as The Great and Secret Show. That being said, this is a still a good album filled with simple filth.