Devil Sold His Soul

Blessed & Cursed

01. Tides
02. Drowning/Sinking
03. Callous Heart
04. An Ocean of Lights
05. Frozen
06. The Disappointment
07. Crane Lake
08. A Foreboding Sky
09. The Weight of Faith
10. Truth Has Come

[Century Media | 07/12/10]

I’ve been looking forward to this record for a long time. Devil Sold His Soul are a band who, it seems, can do no wrong. Frequent touring, satisfying both UK and European audiences, shows a band willing to work hard for their art. Their 2005 EP Darkness Prevails brims with a selection of dark and brooding tunes; many of which are firm fan-favourites. 2007’s A Fragile Hope battered me across the face like a particularly feisty granny; righteous handbag of death a-flailing. In me they’ve created a fervent supporter who peddles them to anyone who’ll listen. Presently, that means you lucky suckers.

So three years after their debut full-length, with only a split EP (with the excellent Tortuga) to span the void, Blessed & Cursed certainly has a lot to live up to. I could write an essay extolling the virtues of their first album, as could any of this band’s fiercely loyal followers – and with the sophomore album being a well-documented difficult task, matching these high hopes was always going to be daunting.

I was actually lucky enough to attend the launch show – for the princely sum of two English pounds – a couple of weeks back, so I’ve had the opportunity to sample Blessed & Cursed both on CD and in a live setting already.

The band have certainly cranked up the atmosphere this time around. Whereas A Fragile Hope exuded a dramatic, impassioned sense of foreboding, Blessed & Cursed exhilirates from the get-go, radiating a colossal measure of maturity.

DSHS have long been masters of swelling the ambient pitch-perfectly into the heavy, using carefully measured soft sections to juxtapose some absolutely huge setpieces. “Tides” sets forth in this manner, but with a brighter, more euphoric edge.

Whilst not a ‘riffy’ band, the few notable ones they do employ are brilliant. I feel the need to mention “The Disappointment”, which at this point is my album favourite. It is truly indicative of the quality of musicianship of which these guys are capable.

“Crane Lake” makes a welcome return (originally an eight-minute track, first recorded for the split EP), and is lyrically one of my favourite DSHS songs. This is another facet of the band’s appeal; whilst musically an ambient metal band, vocalist Ed Gibbs has a knack for writing, and more importantly delivering lines that the crowd are compelled to holler right back at him.

On a slight down side I think the pace is, at times, a little uniform. In places it feels like the urgency of songs like “Siren’s Chant” is missing; the parts that wind up the tension within you as you listen, and make those explosive sections all the more justified. But that’s not to say you’re ever bored, and perhaps it’s  unfair to ask them to repeat an old formula. We more than encourage stepping out of your comfort zone here at HBIH – as long as it’s good.

And here, it really is. It’s not a particularly flashy record, but it still stands head and shoulders above the mire of uninspired copycats and clones. Devil Sold His Soul are something a little bit special, and I’m all the more proud that they hail from my little island. Truly worth checking out, if you haven’t already.

Devil Sold His Soul’s Blessed & Cursed gets

4/5

– CG

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