Devil - To The Gallows - (8/10)
Published on April 18, 2017
Once again, the devil rises out of the Norwegian hills and sounds his clarion call for all sinners to gather to him. His are the most loyal of followers, and with him they shall drink and party and corrupt each other and themselves – a good time to be had by all! And a gathering of such fiendish companions requires equally outlawed tunes to raise all manner of hell both on earth and down below. And as of 2017, it is his namesake claiming the headline slot: with album number three, a beast carved in traditional riffs by the name of To the Gallows, Devil have finally stepped out from the reaper’s shadow for all the world to see with their most expansive and heaviest sound to date – and it’s one hell of a glorious ride from start to finish!
It is fascinating to see a band grow in the way the Norwegian quintet have done, beginning with their incredibly stripped back approach to Pentagram and Witchfinder General-infused doom rock with 2010’s Magister Mundi Xum demo and the following years’ Time to Repent before becoming solidified in 2013’s sophomore effort Gather the Sinners. Theirs was a sound nailed from the get-go but, of course, the best bands know when to shake things up a notch and this is exactly what Devil have done here; triumphantly expanding on their sound with profound nods to the early NWOBHM sound and a crisper production has truly elevated their occult-rich music from the underground and onto the global stage where it belongs. The crooked backbone of their music is still the almighty riff, but now it seems they have mastered this wondrous majesty we love so much; in the four years since their previous album their power has grown significantly, culminating in some of the catchiest hooks to come out this year. This is still the devil’s music but it’s even more sinful than before!
On top of this the band has absolutely nailed their craftsmanship. Though the dense ‘70s organ-blasting of ‘Peasants and Pitchforks’ and the galloping rhythmic boogie of ‘Reaper’s Shadow’ are very typical Devil pieces, it’s the traditional metal belters where they really excel, as ‘To the Gallows’ and ‘Trenches’ make very clear, ripping their way through choruses you can really flex your diaphragm to and riffs that get your fists pumping in the air. Maybe it’s these more singalong pieces – the infectious choruses of ‘David & Goliath’ and the rampaging Western of ‘Regulators’ – or the stomping headbang-inducing throwbacks to the ‘80s found on the rollicking beer-swilling epic of closer ‘Cemetery Still’ or the denim-cut of ‘Dead Body Arise’; whatever it is, Devil have pulled out all the stops in making a near-perfect brew of honest no-frills heavy metal the way it should be, one that would please even the most hardened veteran of our beloved genre. More than anything, it simply feels so damn good to blast these tunes at the appropriate volume and joining in – without being tongue-in-cheek or just plain-silly, Devil have certainly concocted the feel-good album so far in 2017.
In many ways, this is the quintessential Devil album. Just like previous releases, what makes To the Gallows such a belter of a record is how simple the foundations are upon which the band craft a medley of killer tunes with an endless arsenal of unholy riffs and heavy vocal harmonies. They’ve always played in the old ways but never on this level of enjoyment. Unlike a vast number of bands in the genre Devil have become wiser from their experiences, continually growing as the years drift on by and it really shows here. Thankfully, the tunes here are ones that make the genre, and their namesake, prouder beyond belief. Now if you will excuse me, I have a fiendish gathering of sinners to attend!