The Lowdown: Devil Master mash together black metal, goth rock and punk into a fierce high-energy sound, feeling more often like it should score a wild and over-the-top movie than a deep and lonely night. There’s no sense of parody in their sound, however; the Philadelphia fiends play an absurdist combination of sonic ideas with joy, delivering theatrical punky Satanic slices of gothed-up black metal all across their debut record. Short pitch? Ghost, but way heavier.
The Good: Devil Master know exactly what they are and that lets them nail this sonic idea. The songs stay short so they never overstay their welcome or let a sonic idea turn into a joke instead of a banger, and they maintain a decent sense of breathe between mid- and high-tempo tracks to keep the album from becoming too monotone. The record is altogether too fun to deny. It’s hard to imagine anyone who loves punk or heavy metal being disappointed with this one.
The Bad: Unfortunately, knowing the exact thesis of the band feels sometimes like they’re selling the idea short. While the album works well as a single dose, the lack of variety offers little outside of a specific taste. Some longer songs or moodier material would have spiced up the record well, but there is always the chance that they may elaborate on the concept of the band further in the future by folding in some other ideas to mutate.
The Verdict: Variety be damned, though. The album is fun, something heavy metal sometimes sorely lacks, and Devil Master’s goth-punk black metal rave-ups feel like exactly what more extreme fans of heavy metal wanted Ghost to be in the first place. The music is cheeky but doesn’t feel disrespectful; they are playing at the theater of metal without making it a joke and still giving the sonic due-diligence to evoke those early components of black metal well. The songs are tightly wound and bleed into one another and in half an hour they slither away into darkness. All in all, a wildly promising and ecstatically joyful punk-infused black metal debut.
Essential Tracks: “Gaunt Immortality”, “Christ’s Last Hiss”, “Black Flame Candle”