Despite being criminally unsung on the global stage, to say that Devil Sold His Soul have had less than a colossal impact on the UK post-alternative scene over the course of their career would be a significant understatement. Off the back of their originally unassuming 2005 EP Darkness Prevails, the collective have forged a legacy that can be heard within an ever increasing plethora of bands that specialise in the sound of post-metal influenced music, with countless acts over the years citing their work as primary influences and inspirations.
Whilst their stature as scene juggernauts is without question, recent years have seen the band facing a series of public trails and tribulations, events that led many to ponder the future of the band. Following the release of their monolithic and oceanic second full length, 2012’s Empire of Light, it was announced that vocalist Ed Gibbs would be handing over the microphone to Paul Green of The Arusha Accord in order to pursue a career outside of music. The changeover and subsequent 2014 Belong ╪ Betray EP was welcomed by their devoted fanbase, but as the years ticked by without news of a release, many began to wonder aloud the status of the band. With that in mind, when it was announced in 2017 that the band would be embarking on tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their pioneering debut A Fragile Hope with Gibbs on vocals alongside Green, many presumed it would a final curtain call for the act. But as Gibbs and Green elaborate, the tour was the catalyst for what is set to be the most pivotal arch of Devil Sold His Soul’s career to date; the creation and release of their new record Loss.
“If that tour didn't happen we would have never written this album”, states Paul Green. “I don't think we would still be a band if we didn't do that tour. Basically, we went through a cycle before Ed came back into the fold where we where just treading water really. We were just doing the same thing every year or so, just playing the same circle of shows and not getting the support slots we wanted. Then we went over to Europe and it was absolutely abysmal. Those few years before the tour really sucked the life out the band. We didn't think we were going anywhere and we really where thinking of just calling it a day. Of course, I'm glad we didn't because we did those anniversary shows and it did show us that people do care about this band.”
“At that point there was never any talk about doing this record, it was not even considered at that point, continues Gibbs. “For me it was originally a case of doing that tour before going on our own merry ways again. I can't really stress enough how invigorating those ten year shows for A Fragile Hope were, it was the most fun we ever had as a band.”
Of course, the tour in question was the first time the band was fronted by two vocalists. The inclusion of any new member can uproot long embedded personal dynamics, but as Green explains, the rejoining of Gibbs only revitalised the band more. “It really helped segway us into what we are now. We got on super well from the word go. Creatively, we do work differently and we created a solution that worked really well for both of us. there was no bickering over who gets what parts and who's signing what lyrics and who's writing what. I've been in other bands with two vocalists and it's never been as harmonious as this. This just shows what you can do if you find the right connection.”
Even if Gibbs was originally only rejoining the band for those string of shows, it was quickly confirmed that Devil Sold His Soul would be continuing onwards with two frontmen. Not long after the respective tenth anniversary run, the band embarked on one of their biggest string of shows to date, playing a string of high calibre shows at the likes of ArcTanGent and Teddy Rocks, touring alongside the then recently reborn Sikth and even jetting over to Japan to play Osaka and Tokyo with the infamous mathcore collective The Number Twelve Looks Like You. Anyone who saw the band post anniversary tour could easily ascertain the band were made anew during that period, and as the two vocalists elaborate, it was after that touring schedule that truly infused the early writings of their new record Loss with a new found sense of positive urgency. “Japan really lit a fire under us,” smiles Gibbs before Green elaborates. “We got a lot of ideas whilst we were out there, it was really inspiring. But it wasn't until we put our instruments down from touring a side before thinking "we want this, lets make it happen let's make this happen." We were positive and we were in a good headspace.”
Despite Loss standing as the band’s most gilded and accomplished offering to date - a record that emits a sense of renewed invigorating purpose - it’s easily without the question Devil Sold His Soul’s most harrowing and dark outing to date; quite the feat for a band rooted deep in emotional turmoil. Stemming from the passing of drummer’s Alex ‘Leks’ Wood’s mother, throughout the ten tracks that compose the record, the now sextet offering an intimate and poetically uncensored first hand account of the insurmountable grief that loss leaves in it’s shadowed wake. The sheer emotional gravity that pins this retelling ensures it’s nigh on impossible to not feel moved or pained by this musical experience, with very beat, ethereal post-metal texture and scream shimmers with impassioned emotion. But what Loss does share with it’s respective predecessors is it’s purpose; the obtainment of much dearly required catharsis, the purge of pain and the honouring of what’s been lost.
“I think this band from day one has always been about catharsis”, begins Gibbs. “It's all about just getting stuff off your chest. With a band such as ours, we couldn't do it with an element of catharsis. What we do wouldn't really make sense if it wasn't about exercising demons, so to speak. Specifically with the content of this record, we've all been hit by loss in various ways. When we first started writing the album it was framed by the fact that Leks lost his mother really unexpectedly and throughout the whole writing process he was going through just the most awful, awful situation. He was almost unrecognisable.”
Green continues. “It really did impact him and us massively. It hit him so hard. I'm glad he's still there. He's a lot better now but obviously it's something that no one will never get over properly. We made sure that we did something in the record that serves as a memory for his mum and that's the last track. We spoke to him about his grieving process, how he's feeling and how he was navigating that grief and then we used his own words to create the lyrics of the last track. We did what we could to make sure there was something in for the family. We all know each other's families, they all come to the shows and they've always been supporting us since day one. Without all of our families we probably won't have had all these opportunities, chances and lessons that have helped us over the years. So it's hard when someone does that circle. We needed to do something for her memory and I'm really proud of how the track and album came out.”
“That entire process shaped the whole album as a whole”, Gibbs details further. “After that there was lots of other things that happened to various members of the band. It just became apparent that grief and loss was what we had to write the album about really.”
"There's a desolated beauty, a sense of coldness and solitude in there. It just gives me an emotion every time I look at it."
As anyone who has experienced the rerecord can attest to, this underpinning central theme is an overwhelming aspect from the start. Like the black wings of death itself, Loss envelops one in the grieving process the pain and mental suffocation that comes with the passing with a loved one. But actual musical content aside, such a theme is worn on the record’s sleeve – literally. A departure from the illustrative art that has branded the band’s discography thus far, Loss is projects it’s lyrical content with it’s simplistic artwork composed of a solitary house within a frozen, destitute landscape void of life and animation. “So that's actually a photograph by our guitarist Rich [Chapple]”, states Green when asked about the nature of the artwork, “He did a big trip to Iceland as an escape and he really loves his photography. We where searching for an idea what we wanted to do cover wise and we just thought of using these photos as they where absolutely showcasing what we looking to sound like. There's a desolated beauty, a sense of coldness and solitude in there. It just gives me an emotion every time I look at it.”
“It's a metaphor for the record really. It's beautiful and completely bleak at the same time”, adds in Gibbs. “We're super into the illustrative stuff but it felt like it was time to try something different and I suppose one of the main things we've done with this record is that, bar from a handful of things, it's all been done by ourselves. We've not outsourced much. The only two things that we've got people outside the band to work on is the mastering. The other thing was music videos. I'm a video editor by profession so I could have jumped in on those but I think it was good to have some people externally to do that stuff rather than just get too buried in it all as a band. If we were in control of the edit of those videos, like internally, it would have been hellish. It would have just gone on for days, weeks. But it all went really well, Johnny [Renshaw, guitar] engineered and mixed it, Leks did all the photography, Rich did all the photography for the album, I did all the promotion, animation and editing work on it. We've been able to hone our own skills on this and it's been really fulfilling.”
The frozen and destitute nature of Loss may it’s most notable element - but beneath it’s ashen content - it’s easy to see the band brimming with a sense of unbridled joy, positivity and purpose once lost with this record. After years of navigating the wilderness, Devil Sold His Soul have returned to the light with an authentic offering of uncensored emotion that’s been honed and polished via their collective skillset and imagination. Amongst the pain and suffering the group articulate with their latest outing, such optimism lies shivering with anticipation for the opportunities this record is set to usher in when the gears of the live industry begin to tick once more.
A fantastic example of this would be within one of Loss’ most striking and impactful moments, the ethereal and soaring track ‘Tateishi.’ Birthed forth from grief, whilst the track itself is a documentation of navigating the steps that come with the departure of a guide in the form of a family member, the track’s namesake serves as testament and reminder of the passion the group rediscovered during their travels in the Far East. “So that song, it's a funny one, it wasn't written whilst we where out there”, states Green when asked about the track in question. “That song is about losing a family member. But we got to the point where we couldn't think of a name for it and we thought we would put a positive spin on it and name it after something that means a lot to us. Like, somewhere where we stayed, and we stayed in Tateishi. We recorded the bells for ‘The Narcissist’ whilst we where there and the area meant a lot to us, so we decided to name the song after it. Sometimes if you look too hard into a song for a name it doesn't always work out.”
“But I think on a base level note, the name doesn't directly hold any relation to the meaning of the song,” injects Green. “The broader meaning of the song is about desire for what's gone, missing something and really wishing you could have that back. But we all have nostalgic feelings about the Japan trip and where we stayed. I might be quite loose, but I think there is a string that ties it together”
With Loss now delivering the catharsis it birthed from it's creation to listeners handling grief and pain, one cannot help but smile and feel hopeful for the future with this record. Not only have the band handcrafted a sublime emotional and audible experience that stands as stunning hallmark within their already borderline legendary career, to see this band made afresh with this release is extremely gratifying for both long time fans and newcomers. Even with the prospect of headline shows remaining some way off due to the deluge of tours being rebooked following the ongoing Covid crisis – with some Blessed and Cursed belted anniversary shows currently sitting on the back burner for the time being as Gibbs hints – as long as the record connects with people and offers respite, Loss serves his purpose as far as the vocalists are concerned. “I really hope people can connect with it. I know it sounds really cliche but as we've written material that is about trauma and about going through really tough times as individuals but If it helps people that would mean the world”, states Green signing off with a smile before Gibbs agrees. “If someone can go away and take just a shred of enjoyment from it, I think I would be happy.”