The Devil’s Blood – III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars (Metal Blade Records)Thursday, 20th June 2013
Unmastered and barebones to an extent, each of the songs on III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars are still surprisingly robust for what amounts to work-in-progress demos. The use of drum-machine used throughout is mixed a bit high and will prove a sticking point for some (…ahem), but on a whole the drums remain a background and purely rhythmic element for the band, only coming across as particularly annoying on “Tabula Rasa.” This aside, the guitar and bass work is likely all done by band mastermind SL, who here even provides vocals alongside the as-usual fantastic female vocals of F (The Mouth Of Satan). Owing to the primordial nature of the recording, the vocals are mixed fairly low and privy to seemingly random shifts in volume from time to time. It isn’t game-breaking, but it is at times distracting.
The songs themselves are in large part a continuation of and evolution from that which was present on The Thousandfold Epicentre. Classic rock fused with lengthy indulgences of psychedelia, had this release continued upon the path here it would’ve likely been a much more open-ended listening experience. Or, more likely the case, most of these songs just needed the hammer of honing to tone down some of their excesses and fat. Opener “I Was Promised A Hunt” is a sprawling and colossal 22-minute journey of psychedelic extremes and, in all honesty, overstays its welcome in its mid-section. The lengthy and hazy solo sections are spectacular but unfortunately are mended by areas much too unfocused to hold the monstrosity together for the entirety of its running time.
Otherwise, the ‘rockers’ that embodied the band’s debut but were mixed with the more exploratory longer tracks of the last album feature here across the midsection in “The Lullaby of the Burning Boy,” “..If Not a Vessel?” and “In the Loving Arms of Lunacy’s Secret Demons” (the last unquestionably the best of the three and the strongest offering here). The longer tracks return for the remainder of the album, each passing the 8 minute mark and prone to all the joys and miseries one can expect of the unfinished (the ritualistic nature of “White Storm of Teeth” is fantastic, however).
Experiencing III… and knowing that these songs will never reach completion is a frustrating experience. The magic the band is capable of is very much embodied by these tracks makes for the giddiest of listening…but hearing how rough many of the edges are and that they will never be smoothed just kinda sucks a lot of that same joy out. For any fan of The Devil’s Blood III is a necessary indulgence, if only to experience what might have been and hear the creative process in an entirely new way. Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars is a testament to the cruel nature of life and the unexpected deaths it produces. For The Devil’s Blood and they’re thematic bent perhaps there is no more fitting an end.