The Devils of Loudun – Escaping Eternity Review

Raised in fundamentalist Christianity, there was a time in my life when I would only allow myself to listen to Christian music. This self-prohibition overlapped with my entry into the world of heavy metal, so I spent a significant amount of time seeking out Christian metal that also happened to be good. This was no easy task, but my search did bear fruits (of the Spirit). I discovered bands like Living Sacrifice, Project 86, Becoming the Archetype, Antestor, and Cage—yes, that last one was a stretch in terms of sanctity, but what Christian wouldn’t geek out over an album called Hell Destroyer? But one of the most transformative albums I encountered was Through Darkness, the debut record from Finnish holy rollers Renascent. At the time, I didn’t have any real knowledge of metal’s many sub-genres, but I did know that Through Darkness was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard. Now, I can look back and see that Renascent played a very heavy form of symphonic and melodic death metal akin to At the Gates mixed with Dimmu Borgir, and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to find an album that scratches that particular itch in the same way. Until now.

Hailing from Seattle, and featuring members of Aethereus—who themselves released a stellar album just a few weeks backThe Devils of Loudun specialize in death metal of the melodic and symphonic variety. The band’s debut full-length Escaping Eternity finds neoclassical guitar leads and keys soaring over a foundation of thick, grooving riffs, while the powerful vocals of Aethereus‘ Vance Bratcher dial the heaviness quotient up to critical levels. For the sake of comparison, I’d add Children of Bodom to the aforementioned At the Gates and Dimmu Borgir mixture, but I’d also throw in Inferi and Fleshgod Apocalypse due to The Devils of Loudun‘s penchant for heavy technicality. For example, beauteous guitars introduce the embedded “Incarnate” before the track launches ahead with ferocious intensity, incorporating melodic death tropes and symphonic embellishments in equal measure without sacrificing an ounce of heft.

Escaping Eternity‘s ten tracks clock in at just under an hour, but they offer more than enough quality substance to justify such a length—the fast noodling tracks are balanced by a handful of mid-paced, more groove-centric numbers. Sure, The Devils of Loudun signature sound is that of Bach or Mozart experimenting with a cocktail of methamphetamine and electricity, as evidenced by the mad symphony of “Anamnesis,” the Fleshgod Apocalypse-esque “Praise the Eternal Nightmare,” and the short symphonic bruiser “Formless,” but the band shows that they know how to reign things in (relatively speaking) with mid-paced crusher “Abysswalker,” grooving destroyer “The Death of Sleep,” and the quirky “Evolving Wilds.” The album ends in epic fashion with seven-and-half-minute closer “Arcana Imperii,” a song that sees The Devils of Loudun combining all of their dark materials into one piece.

The performances on Escaping Eternity are mesmerizing. Between what he’s done here and his work on Aethereus‘s recent opus Leiden, Vance Bratcher is quickly becoming one of my favorite modern extreme metal vocalists. He easily transitions between powerful growls, tortured shrieks, and guttural squeals, and his performance grants these tracks an air of genuine malevolence. Guitarists Drew Tuel and Scott Hermanns (also bassist for Aethereus) have strewn tasty riffs and jaw-dropping leads all over the record, and their work still floors me even after nearly two dozen listens. The sometimes beautifully restrained, sometimes frantic keys of Ben Velozo saturate the music without ever crossing over into obnoxiousness, and they complement the neoclassical nature of the guitars perfectly. Escaping Eternity doesn’t contain a single weak track, but the highlights for me are “Incarnate,” “Anamnesis,” “The Death of Sleep,” “Abysswalker,” and “Arcana Imperii.”

I must be going through my own personal The Artisan Era era, because The Devils of Loudun have joined their labelmates Aethereus as another shoe-in to make my year-end list. Despite its hour-long runtime, I find Escaping Eternity nearly infinitely replayable thanks to its combination of resplendent beauty and relentless brutality. The Devils of Loudun have developed a winning symphonic melodeath formula that speaks to me like no other record of the style has managed to do in quite some time, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Artisan Era
Websites: thedevilsofloudun.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thedevilsofloudun
Releases Worldwide: February 11th, 2022

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