The Devil And The Sea
Heart Vs. Spine
posted on 3/2008 By:
I've never been to Louisiana, but based on extensive casual research that consisted entirely of watching movies and listening to sludge metal, I imagine it to be a sweltering, muddy pool of utter depravity. I'm sure, barring the 200% humidity and the alligators and the Dixieland jazz, it's a wonderful place, but something about the whole Nawlins area just seems festering and volatile and seedy, a city squarely in the mire and eternally on the edge of damnation.
In thinking about it now, it sounds killer. I should've visited a long time ago. Alligators don't scare me.
The Devil And The Sea doesn't hail from New Orleans, coming instead from Lafayette, some 130 miles away. Simply from hearing their monolithic sludgy doom, you wouldn't know the difference; 130 miles are but a stone's throw to the gods of despair. The Devil is bleak and bludgeoning, their art shifting abruptly from Unsane distorted noise-rock to stoner doom to a crawling funeral pace. The vocals are sparse and tortured, often lurking low in the mix, hidden barely behind the fuzz. In their slowest moments, these songs don't crawl, or plod, or even trudge, so much as they ooze. They exude vehemence with every huge crashing power chord, every alternating hardcore riff or O'Malley-ian 40-bpm drone. Think of this as Cracksmoker, the distant delinquent cousin of Sleep's THC-laced magnum opus, brief bursts of disjointed and brain-frying noise and then long slow walks through the fires between them.
Take, for example, the ten-minute album-opening "Batwing," which starts with a noisy riff that wouldn't be out of place on the new Fight Amp record, before downshifting for a few minutes of agonized screaming, and then back into a midtempo punk section (which is uptempo compared to most of this), and then back to an ooze broken by brief one-measure bursts of speed and culminating in thirty-seconds of droning feedback... There's not a lot of structure here, to say the least, and many listeners may be turned off by the apparently haphazard construction of these tracks, but there's something in them that I find oddly intriguing and appealing. "Time Out For Brimley" and "Tea Pinky" occupy more "commercial" territory, if such a word dare be applied to this. They're both markedly shorter than the mostly epic-length compositions on display, and both inhabit a groovier Southern-fried middle ground between more traditional Nola doom and early grungy stuff like Killdozer. Album closer "Abra Cadaver" is a collage of sound fx, random guitar bits, and screaming. At seventeen minutes, it may overstay its welcome, but in doing so, makes its presence that much more irritating. (And if you don't like it, you can always turn it off. Wuss.)
Unlike the Sol record, which attempted a similar ethic in its marriage of misanthropic black metal with funeral doom agony, Heart Vs. Spine manages to remain interesting, either through an abrupt change of riff or, in the absence of that, through sheer overpowering volume. When The Devil really succeeds, like all good metal bands, they succeed through the combination of both titanic riff and titanic volume. It's dirty and distorted and louder than loud, and it's calamitous and cacophonous and sometimes slower than slow, but no matter what, all of this, to use the vernacular of my native Tennessee, is gooder than good.
Speaking of the South, my fellow Southerners at Acerbic Noise Development seem to be getting quite a buzz out there, garnering a solid reputation as an up-and-coming home for the more experimental side of metal. I reviewed their recent release from noise-mongers El Chupa Cobras, whose drummer owns and runs Acerbic Noise, and I'd hate to tell him that I enjoyed this one even more than that spastic punked-up disc, but 'twas the truth, I fear. There's just something strangely attractive about this exhausting wall of barbiturated grungy sludge.
In short, a promising debut from a promising band.
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