The next excellent step for this ever-improving London band.
Raziq Rauf 2012
It feels like Devil Sold His Soul have been around forever – they formed back in 2004 – but Empire of Light is only the London band’s third album. And it shows that the sextet hasn’t lost the desire to stop creating something new.
Picking up from where they left off with 2010’s Blessed & Cursed (via a slight line-up alteration), they have released another hour-long collection of atmospheric hardcore. If they learned how to control the chaos on said last record, this album sees DSHS use their skills to even greater effect.
Rolling out casually, No Remorse, No Regrets hints at familiar dynamics with its rumbling bass and furious vocals from Ed Gibbs. Then his voice soars into a superb refrain, flanked by guitars adding space and depth. The cinematic nature of DSHS’s sound is intact and stronger than ever. There’s a sinister restraint here that’s difficult to achieve but explodes into glorious colour on more than one occasion.
There’s certainly more variety here than there was before. The sound isn’t as bleak as the Cult of Luna- and Isis-style songs DSHS could be capable of. Now there is more of a hopeful sound akin to the style of post-rock that Explosions in the Sky trade in, bolstered by a ferocious, Converge-recalling rage.
Especially expectations-eschewing is Salvation Lies Within. An electronica-charged number, its jarring instrumentation is only joined by Gibbs towards its climax. It’s a song that allows the album to breathe, allowing the intensity to remain, smouldering in the background, but offering a slight and welcome respite.
Empire of Light’s final three songs run to a total of almost 23 minutes, longer than some contemporaries’ entire albums. But calling Empire of Light “epic” would be stirring unnecessary hyperbole. This is heavy music that is thoughtful and vibrant enough to remain incredibly interesting for the duration of the album.
Devil Sold His Soul have been doing this better than so many others for so long now, and Empire of Light is simply their next excellent step.