Devilskin – Red (Album Review)

If you are into rock music driven by emotionally driven vocals then this is for you. Hailing from Hamilton, New Zealand the quartet have been together since 2010 and have now released their third studio album, Red. Jennie Skulander has primary vocal duties with Paul Martin on bass and his son Nic Martin on the drums/piano. The lone guitarist, Tony ‘Nail’ Vincent, looks every bit as hard as his nickname. Perhaps he even just finished his shift at the factory shaping crowbars barehanded before the show?

When you look at the retina-burning bright red cover it highlights the intensity of emotions and complexity of the actors in this play. With the cover laden with skulls, possibly Cyrillic script, and signs of the occult, of which the exact meanings are I can only imagine but the band has produced an album that uses their own demons to create art.

While Jennie occasionally uses her growls to add another layer of anger to the songs the record has a more classic rock feel infused with some nu-metal guitar thrown in. Jennie makes the vocals her own and through the songs, you can imagine her on stage singing with her eyes closed and fist-pumping with her voice ringing out with all the intensity of day one of putting the album together. The opening song, ‘Do you see birds’, has the majority of her aggressive vocal range displayed with her resonating tones that reach mountainous heights. In ‘Sweet release’ we see the thoughtful angst of someone being able to sing through their thoughts.

As vocal-heavy and melodic driven as the songs are the lead guitars and bass get their chance to break free and lead the way. There are a variety of ways that they grab our attention. A couple of solos give Nail a chance to squeak out a solo.  ‘Corrode’ and ‘Be like the river’ have distortion based nu-metal intros whilst The victor’  relies on a different treble plane and groove. When the bass is grooving the limbs get moving. Live in concert is when it can always be felt ripping through your torso. ‘Same life’ will take you back to your breaking rock as you tap your feet before the harshest vocals on the album attack the inside of your head. The bass pops up again in ‘Blood bone’ boasting a gripping prog-rock tone. Back to guitar but in a different fashion then ‘Bright lights’ comes along with a whimsical delay intro and who doesn’t love delay?

There are a number of themes mentioned throughout the album. When first listened to ‘Endo’ the lines ‘break the mass up’ don’t make too much sense. When learnt it was in response to Jennie’s personal dealings with endometriosis and highlighting what she went through it shows what the level of emotion has put out in this album.

I felt that vocals led the way through this album and despite the blood and sweat put into that perhaps the vocal range wasn’t there for the guttural sections and the guitars could’ve been given more headway. Have a listen to Eyes Red Heavy’ and ‘Do you like birds’  for a good grasp of the band.

Release Year: 2020
Label: self-released
Category: Album
Country: New Zealand

Reviewed by Byron Lotz