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Album Review : Devilskin :Red

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Red’ is the latest release from New Zealand hard rockers, Devilskin and early signs are that it will only add to the already impressive reputation of this Kiwi band. Formed in 2010, ‘Red’ is their fourth album and the follow up to 2016’s ‘Be Like The River’, which won Best Rock Album in 2017 at the New Zealand Music Awards and saw them subsequently supporting the likes of Airbourne and playing at Download Festival.

The response to the release has been nothing short of incredible, with 735,000 Spotify streams in the first week, having toured relentlessly to build up a worldwide fan base and received some brilliant live reviews from Europe, USA and Australia.

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Opening with the thundering ‘Do You See The Birds’ this is full on alternative metal with a blistering beat and the spectacular Jennie Skulander on vocals switching from a roar to a whisper in a heartbeat, whilst maintaining the melody, with Tony ‘Nail’ Vincent grinding away on the guitars and Nic Martin putting in one hell of a shift on drums.

Skulander shows her vocal versatility with a complete change in style from the first track as the band give us ‘All Fall Down’ which shows us a slightly lighter side, whilst retaining that overall heavy sound. Sounding a little like Ann Wilson from Heart in places, Skulander’s voice soars, whilst retaining an almost choral clarity, which is backed by a screaming guitar solo over a driving beat.

Corrode’ is full of angst and tells of being completely overwhelmed by stress, fighting your way through it and rising to ask for help. It’s punchy, catchy has great riffs and another mighty vocal performance and not to put too fine a point on it, this is a fantastic track. Since it’s release in January as a single, the video has amassed over 150,00 views on YouTube, gained radio play on Kerrang and it’s easy to see why. It’s commercial enough to appeal to a wide range of fans whilst retaining that hard rock edge and with a subject matter that some will connect with.

The beat slows up for ‘Eyes Red Heavy’ as Skulander tears at the strings of your heart with a passionate, emotional performance that just lifts the track to another level. Nail then drives through it with a stunning guitar solo, while father and son combo Paul & Nic Martin, steady the ship. I challenge anyone not to feel a chill down their spine when she screams “….overwhelmed” at the end of the track.

The thumping bassline of Paul Martin opens, before one by one the band chip in for the raging ‘Same Life’ which drives along at a hundred miles an hour with death metal overtones in places and is in total contrast to the previous track. The catchy hard rock ‘The Victor’ follows which is all about supporting someone through their struggle as it delves down and comes back up again to give you a real rollercoaster of a ride.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps1-GNVY8Kk&w=560&h=315]

Blood Bone’ opens with a simple guitar then a slow grind which in turn gives way to an epic moodiness full of atmosphere, allowing Skulander’s vocals to flow through over the top, slowly cranking up the volume, before bringing in Nail for a guitar solo and fading to it’s finale. We then move into ‘Endo’ which was written about Skulander’s surgery for endometriosis and the deeply personal lyrics “I can’t shake this, wrapped around my ribs” give us an insight into the vulnerability felt whilst “Puncture! Puncture! Break the mass up!…..” screams of the fighting spirit she needed to overcome it. It’s powerful stuff.

The band change styles again for ‘Bright Lights’ with an almost straightforward hard rock track until they break ranks and hit us with roaring vocals out of nowhere before taking the vibe all the way down for the poignant ‘Sweet Release’ which just shows this band is no one trick pony. It’s a track full of emotion, passion and softer moments yet still with a lifting vocal and some searing guitar work.

Phil Martin says of the album “There are some really personal and very real moments on this album. We absolutely did not hold back, there are songs about struggle, depression, suicide and loss and there are songs about strength, hope, victory and love”.

The penultimate track is ‘Be Like The River’, which finds the band in full swagger with every band member showing what they can do and how well they do it, with a classic rock vocal, a guitar solo, a booming bassline and thumping drums. The final offering is the manic ‘Everybody’s High But Me’ with it’s punk overtones and obvious subject matter, Devilskin finish as they started – with a crashing track that leaves us wanting more.

The obvious comparisons for Jennie Skulander will be made with Ann Wilson, Amy Lee, Lzzy Hale and others and why not as she has a great voice and is the focal point of the band. But that would be to underrate her ability and suggest she is just a copy of them. Whilst elements of her voice remind me of all of them at one point or another, she puts a stunning vocal performance in on this album that should stand alone and be lauded for what it is.

The album is by a band who have built a solid foundation through good old fashioned hard work and honed their sound to give us their finest work to date and on this evidence, we will be hearing a lot more of Devilskin in the future as they reap their reward.

Red is released on 3rd April 2020

Red track listing:
Do You See The Birds
All Fall Down
Corrode
Eyes Red Heavy
Same Life
The Victor
Blood
Endo
Bright Lights
Sweet Release
Be Like The River
Everybodys High But Me

Devilskin are:
Jennie Skulander Lead Vocals
Tony ‘Nail’ Vincent Guitar, Backing Vocals
Paul Martin Bass, Backing Vocals
Nic Martin Drums, Piano

Reviewed by : Howard Whitelaw for MPM

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