II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
To say that I was not a fan of Devilment’s 2014 debut album, The Great and Secret Show, would be something of an understatement. It wasn’t for a lack of interest in it either, being that it featured Cradle of Filth’s Dani Filth on vocals, but its schlocky themes and its extremely uneven material left it as what I assumed to be a rather forgettable footnote in metal’s history. Fast forward two years, though, and original guitarist Danny Finch and original drummer Aaron Boast are gone, being replaced by Sam S Junior and Matt Alston, and the difference in quality between The Great and Secret Show and II: The Mephisto Waltzes is like night and day. Well sort of, anyway.
A lot of what I found to be cringe-worthy about The Great and Secret Show is still present on The Mephisto Waltzes - most specifically the adolescent lyricism that revolves around the kind of horror meets Gothic romanticism themes that are probably only dangerous and mysterious to those who have lived a very sheltered existence - and, like its predecessor, there is an unevenness to the material, but what really surprised me about The Mephisto Waltzes is that even with an awful lot of cheesy rubbish to wade through, there are actually a lot of riffs. In fact, there are broad swathes across the album's 50-odd minutes that are really up there with the catchiest moments I've heard this year. Now that’s something I wasn’t expecting to say. It's just a shame, then, that these great moments share an equal footing with some god-awful material as well.
Where The Mephisto Waltzes is at its weakest is when it indulges in interplay between Dani Filth and Lauren Francis on tracks like “Hitchcock Blonde” and “Full Dark, No Stars” (though it works really well on “Under the Thunder”, to be fair). It's the old beauty and the beast routine, and Francis' vocals are perfectly fine, but there's often a real naffness to these passages both in their execution and in their lyrical content which, frankly, is pretty terrible all ‘round. The album's obviously meant to be theatrical, and theatricality can be fantastic if it's done well (just look at Voices’ amazing London as one such recent example), but Devilment's offering tends more towards pantomime when compared to far superior examples from bands like, say, Carach Angren or even Cradle of Filth.
As an overall package, The Mephisto Waltzes flows quite well despite its slightly lengthy running time, though I would say that it's front loaded with its better, riffier material appearing in its first half. There are still some fun moments to be had in the back half, however, but most of them come in the form of a riff here or there, such as the opening of “Dea Della Morte” or the melodic break in “Hell at My Back”, as opposed to whole tracks. There’s just a slight flatness to the second half of the album where it feels as though the prior momentum has been lost, and it’s a shame because despite the cheesier moments, there is undeniably a narrative arc at the heart of everything and for whatever reason, the wind in the album's sails loses some of its intensity during the story’s final strains.
I went into The Mephisto Waltzes prepared for the worst but actually walked away pleasantly surprised by what I heard. I’m not going to pretend that it’s an album that’s crashing through any boundaries and I'm certainly not absolving it of its issues, but it’s a far more enjoyable affair than the band’s debut and it shows a remarkable progression and growth in the short time between releases. As surprised as I am to be saying this, if Devilment maintains this momentum, there's every chance that album number three will be a real banger.
More from Devilment
- Great and Secret Show, The [review]