Transcending side-project speculations of fans and press alike, Cradle of Filth frontman, Dani Filth, has opted to continue his seemingly perpetual artistic prolificacy with another full length offering alongside his Devilment brethren. So, here we have the sophomore album, 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes', from this Suffolk based clan. Building on the strong sonic foundations established on their debut, 'The Great and Secret Show', this follow-up beast showcases a more refined and sophisticated dark metal majesty, with a sense of both musical and lyrical grandeur. Or, in more blatant terms, this is some seriously fucking good shit here.
In essence, 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes' is a darkly progressive metal journey through all the best elements from the genre's fragmented sonic diachrony over the past four decades. However, far from retro mimicry, the compositions, their arrangements, and the execution of such sound refreshingly contemporary... actually, scrap that, this sounds refreshingly new, as Devilment have in no small way succumbed to any kind of fleeting, ephemeral trends of the day. As such, this stands tall above all the self-imitative genre plagiarists and regurgitating masses that seem to plague an increasingly uninventive metal scene in the second decade of the twenty first century. The genre needs albums like this, and it certainly needs bands like Devilment, who are effectively flying the sincerity flag for metal, while simultaneously succeeding in creating something incredibly fresh sounding.
First off, it's immediately evident that Devilment is an emancipatory outlet for Dani. Emancipatory? Well, at least in the sense that it offers wider aesthetic and thematic scope away from the long established parameters of his day-job band. There are less boundaries here, both sonically and thematically, hence the more multifarious metal approach in the instrumentations, and lyrics dealing with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Sophie Moone. While it doesn't adhere to the same degree of extreme aural malevolence as Cradle, there are fleeting snippets from Dani's musical past audible in Devilment's compositions. However, this is in no way Cradle-lite; rather, it's more about the same forboding atmosphere running throughout the songs, although this has been attained through different modes of expression.
And, on the subject of Hitchcock, what seems to be ostensibly cheesy lyrical matter on my initial encounter with 'Hitchcock Blonde', actually transpires to be a playfully dark take on the masterful auteur's menacing obsession with his blonde leading ladies. Dani cunningly succeeds in arranging an array of actresses into rhyming couplets, culminating with Janet Leigh, who's branded here as "fucking Janet Leigh"... a cheeky Freudian reference to the phallic compensation represented by the knife Norman Bates wields when attired as his mother, when s/he attacks Marion Crane in the shower? Or, more likely, a convenient way to fill in the syllables?! Either way, it's cunningly composed verse, and the song itself is a melodically engaging piece which even incorporates part of Bernard Herrmann's shower theme towards its climax. And the timing of this song and its subject matter couldn't be more perfect, what with the fresh accusations of Hitch's sexual obsessions, bullying and predatory behaviour supposedly detailed in Tippi Hedren's forthcoming memoir which is, coincidentally, due to be published on 17th November, a day before the release date of 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes'.
Vocally, Dani's performance on 'II -The Mephisto Waltzes' is wider in scope than in Cradle; that's immediately indubitable. Sure, there are some Cradle vocal idioms present, from a sporadicity of high screeches to lower register growls, but he also exercises his semi-sung snarls, loaded with gruff tonality, throughout the album. This carries a menacing vibe in an entirely different way to his Cradle delivery. And his onetime Martin Walkyier influence is more emphatic here than in any of his previous vocalisations, particularly in the phrasing of his delivery on 'Hell at My Back', to name but one. Then there's the woman behind the keyboards, Lauren Francis, who embellishes some of the songs with the sublime tones of her clean voice, which provide an exquisite contraposition to Dani's harsher delivery during her lead spots, and the perfect beauty and the beast pairing when they sing together.
Instrumentally, the album epitomises dark metal delight through all of its twists and turns. Well-paced throughout, and with an infectious impetus that drives forth its darkly menacing narratives, the varied musical movements have been conceived with skilfully composed passages of both sinister dirge and sublime lyricism. These contrasts run through the veins of the entire album, and have been attained with a masterful display of musicianship. Lauren's keys work is particularly magnificent with the succulent melodies, equal parts unsettling and resplendent, that she weaves into the instrumentations. And guitarist Colin Parks' fretboard vocabulary is refreshingly wide ranging in its conception; adding colour, malice and dulcetness in all the right places, through passages of both euphonic calm and cacophonic craziness.
With a great sounding production and mix, 'II - The Mephisto Waltzes' is a near flawless dark metal work of art. And, like all great works of art, this needs to be experienced first-hand rather than rambled about in mere words, so go and check out this mightily fine album right now! Devilment are where discord meets concord head-on, on an album of perfectly fused contrasts and compositional brilliance, where the coupling of Dani and his musical comrades is a secular marriage made in heathen.
II - THE MEPHISTO WALTZES
Review by Mark Holmes
18th Nov 2016
1) Judas Stein
2) Hitchcock Blonde
3) Under the Thunder
4) Full Dark, No Stars
5) Shine on Sophie Moone
6) Life is What You Keep from the Reaper
7) Dea Della Morte
8) Entangled in Our Pride
9) Hell at My Back
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Devilment are where discord meets concord head-on, on an album of perfectly fused contrasts and compositional brilliance, where the coupling of Dani Filth and his musical comrades is a secular marriage made in heathen."