Music from the PNW that isn’t grunge or some kind of obscure indie rock? Yes, it is a thing, and The Devils of Loudun prove it! The Seattle-based death metal act is now three records in (more like two if you combine the two five-track releases that came before) and has carved out a distinguished niche for themselves with their combination of Bodom-ian Scandinavian melodic elements and American technicality and heaviness. This unique mixture, tight as ever serves as the backbone for Escaping Eternity, their third record overall and their first full-length release after a six-year gap.
Right from the beginning it rips: “The Scourge of Beasts” in its darkness and technical proficiency is reminiscent of The Faceless circa Akeldama, albeit less deathcore-influenced than Keene and co. were on their 2006 debut. These dynamics carry over into “Ex Nihilo” where The Devils’ symphonic elements come to the forefront a bit more, whereas “Incarnate” is more of a classic riff-and-shred spectacle. “Anamnesis” rips past “Nihilo” to dive deep into TDOL’s melodic inclinations while “The Death of Sleep” borders on Dimmu-esque symphonic black metal at some times and tech death a la Obscura at others, showcasing a nifty versatility in TDOL’s sound while remaining sonically consistent and authentic throughout.
“Evolving Wilds” is more of a standard album track following the central sinister, symphonic mood of the record, though it still packs a punch nonetheless. “Praise the Eternal Nightmare” throws a lot more shred, tear and rip into the mix as the whole band torches the hell out of this track, moving from there into the textbook tech death of “Abysswalker”. The following track “Formless” actually does have its own form, that being brutal, crushing six-string magic, pounding double bass and fittingly guttural growls to make a full-course serving of pure, undoctored, all-you-can-listen-to contemporary death metal. To replicate that formula for the ending would be foolish, thankfully “Arcana Imperii” takes a different direction and slams the eardrums with a culmination of all the elements of TDOL’s essence plus some of rapid thrashiness thrown in for a wonderful final twist.
At a time when metal and subgenres like death metal and technical death metal are seemingly being diluted more and more from their core elements by the day, it’s refreshing to hear a record like this and see that there’s still bands out there bent on preserving their essentials. The Devils of Loudun have concocted and nearly mastered a cross-atlantic metal mixture that works to a tee, and allows them to seamlessly mesh in other sounds and aspects to their formula without bending or compromising their approach in any audible way. In essence, Escaping Eternity isn’t a reinventing of the wheel, but it is a professional refurbishment of it. It’ll be interesting to see what comes next as they inch closer and closer to putting the finishing touches on what they’ve created.