The experience of losing something and someone once dearly cherished has often been the catalyst of great and widely celebrated pieces of art. For an experience that each and every one of us will sadly encounter during our own lifespans, the grieving process is one of the most private, intimate and personal things one can navigate, with the ordeal that follows the subsequent passing of a loved one being a sensation that’s beyond the means of articulation. With that in consideration, it’s no surprise that many opt to chronicle their experiences with grief through their respective art forms. After several years lost within the wilderness, it is this experience that has brought UK post-metal pioneers Devil Sold His Soul back into the limelight with their first record in almost a decade; a labyrinthine chronicle of grief simply yet aptly titled Loss.
Spurred on by their collective experiences with loss, grief and the inescapable suffocation that death leaves in its silent wake, Loss sees the once towering band born again with purpose and urgency. Whilst the record is their first full length offering since their 2012 LP Empire of Light, it’s also their very first outing with original vocalist Ed Gibbs fronting the group alongside former The Arusha Accord frontman Paul Green. It’s likely some may harbour quiet reservations about the act tackling such an existential subject following on from this shakeup in member dynamics, but one dive into the shimmering sonics that compose this record, will quickly quell any such concerns. An exploration and encapsulation of the shades of ethereal devastation that has defined their output over the years, Loss sees the band triumphantly returning to the abstract light of sweeping cinematic soundscapes all whilst raising their songwriting to new levels.
In a fashion not entirely like the beautiful yet annihilating dawning light of Blessed & Cursed’s ‘Tides’, opener ‘Ardour’ establishes the tone, ambience and overall tactful majesty of the record with gilded finesse. Against an empowering post-metal wall of unbridled strength, Green and Gibbs reach into their own experiences in managing pain and trauma with gut-wrenching intimacy and emotional fervour, violently purging themselves of grief in an attempt to reach catharsis. Such ardent passion continues into the colossal, almost oceanic nature of the subsequent ‘Witness Marks’, a sweeping tidal movement of murky post-rock that’s clearly reminiscent of the expansive soundscapes within the monumental and aforementioned Empire of Light.
Whereas Devil Sold His Soul have long been renowned for their intense and overwhelming decantings of bottled emotion, in terms of resonating pain, Loss is without a question an unparalleled creation within their back catalogue. Every musical texture, note and trachea tearing scream shivers with pure heartfelt emotion and sincerity. There’s a profound and palatable urgency underpinning this record, and it’s quite frankly impossible not to be moved spiritually as the collective use this offering to banish and chronicle the grief that has moulded them. The impenetrable haze and tenderness of ‘Signal Fire’ and the towering wind swept catharsis of ‘But Not Forgotten’, a track that sees the band returning to the all conquering screamo devastation of their youth, truly animates the personal importance of the record. The band push themselves to their absolute physical and mental limits in these moments the sheer level of intimacy and human intensity is simply awe-inspiring.
Whilst the overall record is an experience in obtaining clarity and catharsis, there are moments where Loss reaches out to explore other emotional waters. Returning to the more metalcore orientated works documented within their work released appropriately midway through the last decade, ‘Acrimony’ and previous single ‘The Narcissist’ - potentially the most resentful track the band have ever commuted to record – are bile-soaked expressions of pure hatred. Less atmospheric than their counterparts within the track listing, whilst these tracks still carry the same musically dynamic textures that characterise Devil Sold His Soul’s work they serve as moments of fantastic respite amongst the swirling musical layers of anguish. On the other side however, there are bright and sun-kissed moments of optimism present here. ‘Beyond Reach’ and the simply impeccable ‘Tateishi’, a track titled after the travels through Asia that revitalise the band, gleam with positivity and hope, the kind that comes following rebirth after pain and suffering. These tracks awash over you, cleansing the soul and mind of the toxins that trauma carries in it’s devastating wake.
The quintessential feeling of loss may be ultimately impossible to narrate, but with this inspirational masterpiece Devil Sold His Soul capture the essence of grief in its uncensored musical form. It’s an album that challenges one of life’s greatest trails and leaves one feeling empowered to face their own trauma with fervour and whilst it may have taken one of life’s great challenges, Devil Sold His Soul are back with purpose, skill and sheer emotional intensity. Make no mistake, this has all the hallmarks for their biggest career arc to date.
Loss is released April 9th via Nuclear Blast Records.