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Devilfire - Dark Manoeuvres

Dark Manoeuvres
by Jon Conant at 06 December 2017, 2:19 AM

Right out the gate DEVILFIRE’s potential excites me greatly because they spent time on the road opening for Tarja Turunen, which (according to the band) helped propel them to where they are now with their debut effort “Dark Manoeuvres”. NIGHTWISH was my first Metal band and helped forge my love of the genre. I think that Tarja is amazing, so for that to be the genesis of DEVILFIRE is really goddamn cool as far as I’m concerned.

I think it’s fair to say that the band and the album are largely driven by lead singer and frontman Alex Cooper, with themes and lyrics driven by his time spent in the UK Rock ‘n’ Roll scene - so the usual: drugs, anger, jealousy, sex, you name it; Classic rock and roll. So how does the album hold up to the self-induced hype?

Well, ultimately it is very well written and performed, with clean production - all of which is impressive. However, I found that it is mostly very obviously derived from Glam/Hair/AOR Rock/Metal from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Now, not to knock those epic decades, but in 2017, if you don’t find a way to elevate that sound to something new it sounds derivative and unoriginal. Whilst DEVILFIRE does offer some neat and heavier guitar riffs that you don’t often hear in this genre. The vocals are also outstanding, but it sadly still falls into the unoriginal and derivate category. While tragic, the reality of today is with how much music there is in the world, you can’t just be good anymore, you have to be better and different than everyone else.

Track one “Ready For War” is a catchy song, with cool and chuggier guitar riffs than I expected, but it is very simple, and is built on the same basic structure that drives the entire song before ending on a fade out, which I firmly believe is just lazy songwriting. I will complain about song fade-outs every, single, time. The best part of the song for me is the 8 second intro that has a gorgeous ambient sound and melodic guitar line, it’s the most complex and original part of the song in terms of creativity, and I wish they drew a bit more inspiration from it throughout the rest of the track. That being said, nothing about the song is bad, it’s just that I’ve heard it so many times before.

The next two tracks are both love songs and pretty much sound like every Hair Metal ballad from the 80s that you’ve heard before. It works, but nothing to see here. I will say that track 3, “In And Out of Love” has one of my favorite choruses on the album, but again, it’s ultimately derivative of so many songs I’ve heard before.

“Waiting For a Rockstar”, the 4th number, is really, really cool. It is hands down the best track on the album for my taste (closely followed by “A Thousand Times”, but more on that later). Credit where credit is due. It has a powerful rhythm guitar line, excellent lead guitar work, and some FANTASTIC synth/orchestral parts behind that rhythmically emphasize the beat of the song. I love that, for it gives it a pounding feel that really moves. Coupled with experimental vocal work from Cooper that at times sounds like something inspired by Kid Rock, this is one of the most inventive songs of the album. While I think it may have been more relevant in 2005 than 2017, it is still cool and I have to give them props for it.

The middle 2 tracks of the album, “Lay It On The Line” and “Kill Your Love” break into a faster-paced, more 90s/Grunge type of sound. It is refreshing to hear, and it serves to keep the album moving well, which at this point it kind of desperately needs. Again, the songs are well written but it’s easy to get bored with a genre that has already been so well covered by so many bands.

Track 12, “A Thousand Times”, has some of their most interesting writing on it. It’s much more staccato based, as opposed to the rhythmic chugging flow of the rest of the album, and at times the guitar lines almost border on Prog. The last minute of the song is actually one of the coolest things I have heard musically in a while. It is epic, different, and almost reminds me of MUSE melodically - particularly with the synth in the background that drives that portion. That’s cool to hear, and gives me hope for the bands ability to write music. I hope they take more influence from that bit in their future efforts, which I eagerly await. Keep in mind, these guys know what they’re doing, that’s not the problem, I just wish they’d do something else.

All in all, as I have attempted to emphasize, this is not a bad album. It is cleanly written, the production is fantastic (especially for a debut), and Cooper’s vocals are actually pretty incredible. It is just ultimately unoriginal and feels like a waste of real talent, which DEVILFIRE absolutely has. Their compositional and technical performance skills are A+, so if they can find a way to bring some real creativity to the table, they’ll have some serious stuff to work with.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 3
Memorability: 4
Production: 9

2 Star Rating

1. Ready For War
2. She’s Like Fire
3. (In And Out Of Love) All Of The Time
4. Waiting For A Rockstar
5. Lay It On The Line
6. Kill Your Love
7. Tear Me Apart
8. God Give Me Vengeance
9. Devil In Your Eyes
10. (You Gotta) Revolution
11. She’s Always On The Run
12. A Thousand Times
13. Somehow
Alex Cooper - Vocals
Baz Blackett - Guitar
Dan Bate - Bass
Lars Wickett - Drums
Kieran Topp - Guitar
Record Label: Independent


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