Devilskin – Red (Album Review)

Hailing from New Zealand, the fearsome Devilskin return Friday, April 3rd with their third album Red.

For those whom are unfamiliar with the band, Devilskin formed close to a decade ago. Comprised of Vocalist Jennie Skulander, Guitarist Tony “Nail” Vincent, and the father-son duo of Bassist Paul Martin and Drummer Nic Martin, on paper, Devilskin could be described as a tense Rock-n-Roll mixture of Emo along with Nu Metal. However, any apprehensions you may have reading that combinations will be thoroughly washed away as the tape rolls. Already releasing We Rise in 2014, followed by Be Like the River in 2016, after demoing close to 30 new songs in the long four-year gap since then, twelve tracks made the cut for Red.

The searing vocals of Skulander are the easy and immediate focus, but behind the infectious hooks, the band is powered by some serious musicianship, from the dueling guitar and bass of Nail and Paul, to the steady drumming by Nic. Nearing the stride of her mid-thirties, Skulander lies smack between the elder stringsmen and the young drummer, and her voice has the range and flexibility to sound decades beyond her years. This is evident with the deep rumblings and brash anger of “Endo,” or fall back within an angsty teenage stage, as she does on the brash opener “Do You See Birds.”

After breaking through a wall with a gruff, punchy sound, the early single “Corrode” sees the band take a step back as Jennie flexes her pipes, settling for a brisk staccato of backing rhythms. Skulander sounds as if she could be singing to tens of thousands of screaming arena fans or a handful of patrons in a dive bar; the effort seems equal on all tracks. Her vocals again take center stage during “Eyes Red Heavy,” which–compared to the rest of the album—can be considered the requisite ballad. This is as the vocal heights and matching guitar solos are as emotionally raw as anything else on the track, challenged only by the plucky guitar and heartfelt vocals of “Bright Lights.”

Then there is “All Fall Down” which combines a syrupy opening guitar line with a hard-chugging, tied into a ribbon at the midway point by a sprawling solo, with Skulander punching holes through the sky with her vocals. Once again stretching her vocal range, Skulander takes the thick, winding bassline “Sweet Release” and pairs with it vocals that could have doubled for Tracey Thorn in the ’90s. A few guitar licks appear to keep the track on the proper Rock-n-Roll path, before the track fades entirely into “Be Like a River,” a titular call back to their second album. Lastly, the shortest cut comes as closer “Everybody’s High but Me” packing several pace changes to make its near-three minutes, and the album as a whole, appear to fly by.

Four years and already three studio albums into their career, Devilskin pull no punches with Red. The unique mixture of soaring aggression and quiet desperation on tracks like “Eyes Red Heavy” and “Bright Light” serve as a welcome invitation to listeners to join the show. This is all while the brutality of “Do You See Birds,” “The Victor,” along with lead single “Corrode” keep the band rooted and honest in their heavier influences. Furthermore, the motoring fun of “Same Life” and “Everybody’s High but Me” keep the two on equal terms.

The album seems split between heavier tracks in the front and relatively lighter fare on the latter half, but the combination is impossible to turn off. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Red 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

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