Judging by the material presented on A Lullaby for the Devil, it is obvious Devon Graves and his band have opted to develop a new voice and move into uncharted territory. After releasing the highly acclaimed A Murder of Crows and following it up with the flawless masterpiece The January Tree, Graves produced The Dead Word, the band's fourth studio album. And while all of these albums are successful in their own right, The Dead Word was definitely the last statement he could make in that style, as all three albums were cut from the same cloth and it was about time they did something different.
Originally intended to be a double album, A Lullaby for the Devil features Graves' choice of best tunes he wrote and produced over a lengthy time. As a matter of fact, while The Dead Word was written, recorded and produced in just over a month, the new album's production stage took months alone. This record features the band trying to break new ground, starting with significantly heavier compositions, such as the album opener "Psychosphere" and the short but incredibly powerful "Further Down". Devon Graves sings as aggressively as possible, bringing to mind his phenomenal work in Psychotic Waltz in nearly a decade. His semi-growled voice works perfectly in the context of jarring, angular guitar riffs and grumbling bass drive. Adel Moustafa's drumming is so laser-precise, it sounds like a perfectly timed machine actually.
"Goodbye City Life" would be a good choice to represent the overall flow of the album. The longest tune, it brings forth eerie sound effects, strange narrations, and a militaristic drum march in its intro, creating an epic-scale arrangement. The atmosphere achieved on this piece is frightening, with stabbing guitar drills whose tone evoke Psychotic Waltz circa Into the Everflow. And when Graves adds his furious rapid-fire lyrics to the piece following a sweet clean vocal section atop dreamy acoustic guitars and seductive piano, the tune erupts into a challenging progressive metal monster laden with an extensive flute arrangement and Opethian staccato workout.
There is so much novelty put on display here. The heavy-duty riffery of "Here Come the Pigs", a song as angry as its title suggests, boasts screaming guitars and pounding rhythms whilst retaining a Middle Eastern flavour in its main melody. Once again, given its aggressive nature, it is more so reminiscent of Psychotic Waltz than earlier Dead Soul Tribe material. On the emotive piece "A Stairway to Nowhere", Devon Graves' singing and the vocal arrangement recall Steven Wilson on the Stupid Dream album, charged with industrial-like beats, synth textures, and guitar crescendos. The harmony vocals at the end are similar to the creepy stuff heard on earlier Peter Gabriel albums.
There is also an amazing instrumental song on the album. As stated before, there is plenty of flute playing here, and rather than an added element, the flute becomes the central instrument on "The Gossamer Strand". Easily the most progressive song on this disc, it is pervaded by an instantly noticeable melody which is brilliantly recreated by drummer Adel Moustafa in the second half. The bluesy guitar solo is a bit like Gary Moore, particularly because of its unique bends and articulation. It begins as a painfully slow number but develops into a fierce rocker at the finale.
The one song that recalls Dead Soul Tribe's older tracks is "Any Sign At All", built on a thudding bass groove and Tool-like guitar and vocal combination. It is a good song, but they have written stuff in this vein much better on the previous albums. Those anticipating a moving ballad will definitely enjoy "Fear", another track with a cool blues solo, and wonderful multiple vocals at the end. The title track is dark and haunting. It combines the band's slow piano work with Graves' mournful delivery in the beginning, but quickly moves into a hard-hitting piece increasing the degree of tempo and intensity. The song is a good example of how versatile a singer Devon Graves truly is.
Dead Soul Tribe have constructed a leviathan of sound with this album. At times it is mericelessly crude and raw, but intensionally so. Then it oozes impossible beauty and sheer emotion. Though it's unlikely it will surpass A Murder of Crows or The January Tree, this is easily the most diverse album they've done and they deserve to be applauded for their solid experimentation.
- Goodbye City Life
- Here Come the Pigs
- Lost in You
- A Stairway to Nowhere
- The Gossamer Strand
- Any Sign At All
- Further Down
- A Lullaby for the Devil