II-The Mephisto Waltzes
Dark, poetically engaging Gothic metal from England
Guitarist Danny Finch founded Devilment in 2011. It was his brainchild, and at the time, most of the band's debut album, 2014's 'The Great and Secret Show', existed in demo format awaiting a proper singer. Finch asked his friend Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth) to collaborate and the end result was securing the Nuclear Blast deal and the debut album's release. The band hit an extensive tour with Lacuna Coil and Motionless in White and things got devilish between Finch and Filth. The two apparently cited the proverbial creative and personal differences. Finch was told to “f#ck off” and he did, walking away from the band he founded. When the dust settled, Finch had a gag order on the details of his departure and Filth carried on with the same line-up to continue writing and recording. Finch later went on to form a cool project of his own called The Devil's Music. Look 'em up.
Two years after the debut album we receive 'II – The Mephisto Waltzes', the sophomore album from Devilment and the first record not featuring Finch's ideas and guitars – although I'm sure there were pieces left over somewhere that were recycled. As much as I hate to defend Dani Filth (I do hear he is a pompous ass but I have no personal experience), his artistic style is simply unmatched. The guy has IT, the IT factor that just makes everything he does compelling. From artwork to lyrics to presentation, it's hard to fault Cradle of Filth, Devilment, or anything else Filth gets involved in because it's all extremely well received by most. He's seamlessly transferred “Gothic Grotesque” into melody. So, it's no big surprise that with Filth conducting the dance, 'The Mephisto Waltzes' is one incredible performance.
The first album emitted dance and industrial flavorings to the drums to match what really was the dreaded “washing machine” guitar riffs from Finch and lead guitarist Colin Parks. It was one-dimensional and failed to hook the listener. The song arrangements failed to incorporate keyboardist/backing vocalist Lauren Francis more prominently. She had more of a spoken voice role with the debut where this new album features her beautiful vocal tones on a majority of the songs, really creating contrast with Filth's screeching delivery. That combination of beauty and beast worked well with Cradle of Filth and works well here. For example, “Full Dark, No Stars” at the 0:50 mark has incredible vocals from Francis and is an absolute highlight of the song and album. The same can be said with her enhancement of “Hitchcock Blonde”. Her stirring vocals on the verse “There's a mystery about you…” is just sheer perfection. I can't help but think that Filth's ideas (or welcoming band ideas) improved the band from where it was in 2014.
Musically, think nods to Cradle of Filth in the vocal department. The aggression and speed of COF isn't evident at all, albeit “Shine on Sophie Moone” is the closest comparison. There's a riveting symphonic score behind most songs and often the tracks will reach a slower pace to isolate some of those tones. The songwriting has an edge of humor to it, evident on tracks like “Judas Stein” about a Frankenstein creature made out of severed limbs whacked off from traitors and derelicts by the church. Or something well-said like “Life is What You Keep from the Reaper”. Brilliant. Favorites for me are the aforementioned tracks as well as “Dea Della Morte”, which has a beautiful score to open before isolating on the kick drum as the rhythm kicks in. It's has a sadistic telling of Cinderella in the lyrics and really hits the stride at 1:25 before Francis comes on with her soft vocal texture. Love it.
Dark, poetically engaging, metallic – the album just hits the high mark on everything, including the wicked album cover by artist Elena Vizerskaya and crispy production standards from Scott Atkins (COF, Amon Amarth). It's hard to make a more compelling record. It's an artistic masterpiece.