How much do you demand of your bands? I mean really, properly demand- how high do you set the bar, how unflinching are you in what compromises you will or will not make before you’re going to part with your hard earned cash to support more product? Are you genuinely demanding or do you want what they did last year with a bit of new artwork? Me? I’m a cantankerous old git so I expect loads. After hearing “Empire of Light”, I’m grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
The latest record from Devil Sold His Soul is a passionate, inventive and substantive step forward for the London band; it will solidify their existing (and burgeoning) fan base and will have a few people crawling out of the woodwork with statements like “Devil Sold his Soul?? Always LOVED them mate. I’m proper hardcore, me…” Hmm, yes, well, you get the idea.
“Empire of Light” is the fourth release from a band who have always threatened impressive things; with “Empire of Light” they might just be starting to realise them. Be under no illusion, this is still a hardcore record but it is one that is imbued with a richer, more inventive palette than previously and one where the band set themselves a high bar which, thankfully, they hit with regularity.
“Empire of Light” works on three new levels for me. First, there is a much wider range of musical ambition here: whether through the inclusion of atmospheric, post rock soundscapes (which hint at Explosions in the Sky or a spaced out Cult of Luna) than on previous releases- or the welcome relief to the intensity that comes from the electronica that comes on ‘Salvation Lies Within,’ this is a record where the band have taken a successful template and comprehensively added to it.
Second, this is a band that credit their audience with a degree of intelligence and patience. For a hardcore band to deliver a final triptych of tracks on this record that are nearly as long as the entire “Reign in Blood” album is some serious statement of intent.
Third, the whole damn enterprise works cohesively. It’s has a focus and a level of resolve that is hard to shake but easy to admire. Whilst there is experimentation in the vocals and the musical tempo throughout the record, at its core there is a brooding, dark intensity that never lets up for a moment, leaving you both exhilarated and exhausted but in a very good way.
“Empire of Light” does what I expect of a band: they’ve pushed themselves hard and set their standards high and come out fighting. That they succeed is testament to their hard work, talent and guile. Thoroughly excellent!