Mixed by Romesh Dodangoda (Motörhead, Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine) and co-produced by Dodangoda and Devilfire frontman Alex Cooper (She, Quireboys Spike, Ginger). Released Friday 6 October 2017
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From the birthplace of such diverse bands as Black Sabbath, Ocean Colour Scene and Duran Duran comes the dark, melodic hard-rock of Devilfire. Formed by vocalist Alex Cooper the album took around four years to write and rewrite and features a collection of songs that reflects his experience of the UK rock scene: love, loss, hate, jealousy, arguments, ego, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
As the promo material points out, it’s hard to believe that this is only their debut album. The album has a fabulously clean and clear production. The songs are polished and overflowing with melody—it’s hard to see how they could be any more melodic; at times they feel sickly sweet and have the cheeriness of an over-saturated US comedy—with more than a nod of the head to 80s glam rock, AOR and bands like Europe and Thunder.
It must be something to do with Cooper’s influences but the first time I listened to this album I kept thinking, “I’m sure I’ve heard this song before”.
“Ready for war” (track 1) opens gently with a warm keyboard-sounding pad, that is actually bass guitar and guitar, before opening up to a mid-paced rocker of a song about standing up for yourself in a relationship. Paradoxically, it has both a melancholic and hopeful feel to it. It is a good album opener and is representative of what’s to come.
“She’s like fire” (track 2) gets straight to the point straight out of the blocks. Melodically, it feels very similar to the previous track but it’s a fun, energetic song about someone Cooper met—extrovert, like a whirlwind, dancing with desire. And then like some relationships, the song burns out and disappears.
“(In and out of love) all of the time” (track 3) slows things down a little with a more considered riff and lament-ful melody.
“Waiting for a rockstar” (track 4) is a fun and bouncy song that reminds me of something else that I’ve reviewed here but can’t quite put my finger on. (Hookah the Fuzz? Kyrbgrinder?) The girl in the song, seemingly, is a metaphor for the music industry: “a cold, callous femme fatal that can eat you up and spit you out”. It’s one of the stand-out songs of the album.
“Lay it on the line” (track 5) is another easily accessible track with a melody that gets stuck in your head. As is “Kill your love” (track 6) which is a surprisingly upbeat and cheery song about destructive relationships.
“Tear me apart” (track 7) slows things down with what sounds like a piano and slide guitar intro. “Have you ever felt emotion so deep towards someone you feel it might actually tear you in two?” asks Cooper. That’s what this song is about. Live, I imagine, this is a good opportunity to get the Zippos out to wave above your head in the dark.
“God give me vengeance” (track 8) returns us to Devilfire’s signature stabbing/jabbing riff style and a gloriously melodic vocal line that soars above it. About two-thirds of the way through, the chorus gives way to a middle-eight and guitar solo that feels neither indulgent nor overstays its welcome.
“Devil in your eyes” (track 9) pounds out of the starting blocks with a riff that started life as an upbeat Thin Lizzy-style song but morphed into something else.
“(You gotta) revolution” (track 10) has everything you want from a stadium rocking classic right from the go, including a melody line that you hear crowds singing along to (“woah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, etc.”) and shouting along to (“You. Got. This. War. Coming!”) For me this is another standout track and definitely one I’d love to see/sing along to live.
“She’s always on the run” (track 11) opens with a riff that wouldn’t feel amiss on a James Bond soundtrack (à la Chris Cornell’s “You know my name” from Casino Royale). A little over halfway through the song takes a tour through a couple of key changes before resolving to take the song home. It’s a gentle rocker that I found myself swaying to.
“A thousand times” (track 12) has perhaps the most driving guitar-led riff on the album. A stabbing riff and a lamentful lyric about people not living up to your expectations.
“Somehow” (track 13) closes the album with a delicate song played on a nylon-strung guitar. It feels raw and personal. “Ever feel that no matter what you do, you can never do anything right?” asks Cooper. That’s what this song explores.
It is hard to dismiss this album as simply a saccharine exercise in melodic rock. On each listen-through I heard something new, something deeper. The instrumentation is layered and complex in places, the lyrics are personal, and the melodies are sublime. 80s AOR just got an upgrade.
Definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future, and go see them live.
Review score: 85%