It’s difficult to get as excited as one should be about Devilman’s pedigree, primarily because I’m not capable of squealing and bouncing round like a 12 year old girl who has just been given a pony with Robert Pattinson’s face. In just about every respect, Devilman are a perfect storm of cool ingredients for an album. They’re on a Japanese / Berlin indie label, with DJ Scotch Egg on bass and a Yakuza boss (or similarly sinister figure) as a frontman. Add to this the awesome artwork, neatly descriptive band logo and the fact they’re playing noisy dubstep and you’re probably wondering (like me) why they haven’t been given their own country yet. I haven’t even touched on the live performance yet (see Supersonic Friday for a mini review of their festival appearance ) which, in a word, was triumphant.
So what can they do wrong ? Well, it’s not that I don’t like this album, because I really do, but the live performance is partially why I’m slightly disappointed in it. You see I don’t have a huge array of very powerful amplifiers in my house. I wish I did, but I don’t. So I can either listen to this on my headphones or through my regular stereo, which is a bit like watching Saving Private Ryan on a mobile phone. I’ll get the general idea but the full impact of seeing it with surround sound and a big screen are missing.
This album is all about bass and sub bass. So listening to it through your shitty iPod headphones is a waste of time. Listening to it through your laptop or phone is a waste of time. Even on my decent headphones I couldn’t help wishing that the bass was crushing my chest and making my arms vibrate like when I saw them live. I asked a friend of mine to push me about a bit and punch me in the back to simulate the live sound but it got annoying pretty quickly.
Still, very little in life is perfect, so despite the fact that I can’t replicate the crushing intensity of Devilman live, what I can do is chuckle to myself heartily at the crazy chopped up vocal intro to “Bakan Q”. When teamed up with its Neanderthal bassline and low slung beats I can’t help thinking of this being used to soundtrack a particularly gruesome exorcism. “21SeikiDub” takes an equally naïve approach with a faltering bassline and the most rudimentary of dub drums but its raw adrenalin and melodramatic gurning will have even the most cynical music fan grinning. By far my favourite is “93” which sounds like a confused Frankenstein-like monster with a bass guitar threatening a Kung Fu drum machine, until a disorientating psychedelic hurdy gurdy comes in like a swarm of drunken wasps to scare everything away. Brilliant.
Not everything is as good, with “Nirvana Dub” being a strangely straight cover of “Scentless Apprentice” but reduced to its bare minimum and “Elephant Dub” doesn’t really seem to know what it wants. These less impressive moments are compensated for by their more experimental counterparts. “Noise Step” is exactly what it sounds like, an eardrum purging arrangement of white noises and “Ross” is a beat-free church organ solo that ramps up the evil while giving you a chance to calm down.
Go and buy a subwoofer and the biggest speakers you can buy, put this album on as loud as you can and when Devilman appear at a venue near you make sure you go and see them.