It is said that everything is bigger in America, but if you really want big just look no further than British sextet Devil Sold His Soul’s new release ‘Empire of Light’. Big guitars, bigger screams and absolutely massive melodies; it’s doubtful you’ll hear anything this encompassing in the near future.
Genre-defying DSHS open up their third full length with the pounding ‘No Remorse, No Regrets’, followed by the almost angelic ‘A New Legacy’ in typical Devil fashion. It’s apparent that the songs so far are slightly shorter than those on previous albums, but they still pack the punch that the old material does. Things swiftly change with the next track as the lads from Reading try something new and as they up the tempo significantly with ‘VIII’, it begs the question of why they never tried this before. As the album rolls on, the tried and tested methods return; melodic quiet sections leading through exciting build-ups and ultimately goosebump-inducing pay off sessions (alternating between stunningly beautiful singing and abrasive screams from frontman Ed Gibbs) and through the awesome work of guitarist/producer Jonny Renshaw at Bandit Studios, it has never sounded so crisp.
Jozef Norocky’s bass is pulsating and powerful, Renshaw and Rick Chapple’s guitars are sharp and solid, and sticksman Leks Woods’ drumming is so driving, it is as if God has his holy hand on your pathetically mortal head, pushing it back and forward in time with the hallowed compositions. What really shines through moreso than on previous DSHS albums is the synth/sample work of Paul Kitney. Without him, it is entirely possible that this band could be written off as just another metal band (albeit a unique and talented one); Kitney’s atmospheric soundscapes are really what make Devil Sold His Soul sound so undeniably huge. The outro of 9 and a half minute album closer ‘End Of Days’ is nothing short of glorious because of the synth melodies.
Previous DSHS releases (‘Darkness Prevails’, ‘A Fragile Hope’ and ‘Blessed & Cursed’) have always been on the darker side of life when it comes to lyrical content. It is entirely possible that vocalist Gibbs has turned a corner in his life and is overcoming some of the problems that apparently plagued him in past years, as ‘Empire of Light’ is a very positive and encouraging album. It touches on the melancholy but there is always a sense of hope – “Even when we’re knocked down / the journey is not a lost cause / Light shines down in every moment”. In a point in time where it is almost trendy to write downbeat lyrics, this is a refreshing, uplifting and inspirational change.
It is hard to find anything negative about this eleven track wonder, and the only thing apparent after many spins is that ‘Empire of Light’ is definitely a grower of an album, simply because there is so much to it that one cannot take it all in with just a couple of listens.
Put simply, this album is majestic, empowering and enlightening. Perfect.