Friday, April 26, 2013

Deville Teases A Many-Headed Hydra

This past decade has been great for Deville. The heavy rock foursome from Malmö, Sweden, have produced three progressively better albums. Hydra is easily their best.

Not only did the band trade in some of their sludgier stoner rock for something more contemporary, but every inch of the new album is tightly woven and clean. Sure, this new effort lands them somewhere between hard rock and heavy metal, but it's also patently clear that Deville is confident and comfortable in this fuller space.

Hydras have many heads. Some bite.

Overall, Hydra picks up the pace thanks in part to simpler arrangements. No, the band hasn't completely abandoned its stoner rock roots. They've also kept some piggish elements, adding in plenty of dirty riffs and additive hooks. The biggest difference is they want to do more than create atmosphere. They want to drive it. 

Ask the band and they're likely to sum up the changes as simply taking the very best of what works live and putting it together. They don't want anyone to leave their shows bored. And nowhere is this fact more evident than the first track. Lava is a journey, just like the video.

Filmed and directed by Henrik Christoffersson and Peter Tarpgaard, the song lays down a blurry and impossibly impulsive first person account of what it takes to get it done. There might even be an inside joke in featuring drummer Markus Nilsson as the one trying to make the studio session. 

He had two jobs this time out, taking over as engineer too. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean Nilsson was calling the shots. Most people know Andreas Bengtsson asserts himself as the frontman for Deville. He is the one who drives the band forward, just not without asking for opinions and input.

The truth is that it was Bengtsson who wanted Nilsson to mix it after the first mix by someone else flopped. According to Bengtsson, it was too lo-fi and held back too much. Nilsson agreed to fix it, but only on the condition that no one would interfere with his process.

The totality of the album is a more diverse Deville.

The advantage of having Nilsson mix it is apparent. He was there when the band play-tested many of the songs on tour. It could also be in some of the mixes that he accentuates the more experimental moments.

I'm not sure all of them work. For example, Let It Go has these oddly pop-infused choruses sandwiched between heavier steadfast lyrics. The better track is the nod they give to their own past performances as Imperial leans on their atmospheric roots. Stay A Little Longer could have also been more thunderous than subdued.

While there is plenty to like about the album, the best highlights are on the top half of the album. Iron Fed, an underrated track, chugs along at the same relentless clip. In Vain has an almost alternative rock feel as Martin Hambitzer and Markus Åkesson weave together a few timeless impressions. The Knife is a fuzzy, fuller throwback that also contains compact and memorable drum work.

There is no doubt that Bengtsson is more urgent on the album, that Deville packs in more than two guitars to add even more weight to some sections, and it's mostly straightforward hard rock with Nilsson occasionally working overtime. Sometimes it's almost too clean. Sometimes there's too much pop.

Hydra By Deville Drives 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The biggest impression most people will take away from the album is that the band isn't confined to the 1970s. Rather than quietly produce something to complement their stoner rock creds, Hydra is a little more modern and a whole lot more serious.

You can find Hydra by Deville on Amazon. You can also order the vinyl edition from Barnes & Noble or download the album from iTunes. They are clearly a band to watch, given that Hydra demonstrates how much more there is to this band than most people realize. It would be great to see even more material that showcases their new-found direction. Maybe they'll leak some while on tour.
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