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Devils In Heaven - Rise

Devils In Heaven
by Jose Costa at 31 August 2021, 7:25 AM

It was Lars Ulrich of METALLICA and Bobby Liebling of PENTAGRAM who separately pointed out the era of 1967-1977 as the peak time of so-called "Dinosaur Rock", which inadvertently paved the way for their favorite bands of that era to fill an underlying void left by the stalled procession of acts like THE BYRDS, TOMMY & THE SHONDELLS, THE GUESS WHO, THE TURTLES, and later on PETER FRAMPTON, HEART, STYX, and CHEAP TRICK.

Singer Liebling spoke of how his bandmate (and drummer) GEOFF O'KEEFE instilled in him the curiosity to consider the loudness of a band like BLUE CHEER, as opposed to the more congenial style of THE TURTLES. It was Ulrich who noted the greatness of the NWOBHM in the late 70's as being a significant revelation of current and future excellence. At this time, both the so-called "AOR" (Adult Oriented Rock) co-existed with more complex bands, as both factions seized this "hot-iron" moment. Therefore it may be worth asking, how meaningful or redeeming is it for a band like DEVILS IN HEAVEN to be tapped into for a reissue of their only album's worth of music after the subsequent trends of '85 - '95 and amongst the general public of 2021 ?

It is already intriguing for the newcomer to hear that they are from Australia. All artists from Oz that were outstanding all began under fledgling circumstances, but if mostly by talent alone. They who were AC/DC, THE DISTILLERS, WOLFMOTHER, and MEN AT WORK assumed the land down under as a proud place to be in, & to make original music from. Even more importantly, generation gaps, participation, & interest of the youth would determine future success - just remember young-adult fiction author Susan Hinton's novel The Outsiders and how its main character, Pony-Boy Curtis, who in his teens wrote about how his clique of male friends were fans of ELVIS, whereas their richer adversaries,"The Socials", admired THE BEATLES instead.

It is through this outline that we must wonder if DEVILS IN HEAVEN enjoyed success by the contrasts with their musical peers, or did they simply acquire temporary stature just by landing and winning, a live performance spot & record contract with the Australian Star Search show?

If the content of the band clashed with who was listening to their tunes back then, we may have reason to believe it was the grown-ups who were to take charge & later ruin every chance at mainstream success, even when youngsters, especially young ladies, were used to admiring their style. DEVILS IN HEAVEN were not alone, however, as their cousins in the UK unleashed SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, THE CURE, BANANARAMA, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, and the well known DURAN DURAN in the earlier half of the '80s. This output of music perhaps casted a thick shadow to spring forth from for recognition,  & especially when significant experimentation was the norm for such recording artists of the British faction of progressive musicians.

After consistent collaborations and rehearsals, the results were songs that may as well fared well in a live setting as they were dynamic & steady in overall effect, mainly emphasizing riffs, pace, and especially vocals. The most outstanding tracks may as well be "Say a Prayer," "Ships In The Night," "Liberation," and even "Age (Simple Man)".

In his vocals, front-man David Whitney sounds similar to RICK ASTLEY, MICHAEL BOLTON, and even NICK VAN EEDE (The CUTTING CREW frontman, UK, early 80's) to an extent. Sure enough, the lyrics are characterized by romantic introspections recited from a man's emotional mindset, making Whitney's voice perfect for this style. Aside from the appeal towards young ladies, the judges of the Australian Star Search in all likelihood approved of the band for the vibes of the tracks, & Whitney's wholesome grasp of the lyrics.

Although "RISE" is not fully a memorable album, the tracks herein are to be fully enjoyed by diehards of this style who prefer anything to do with with Pop music, or its influence, in the sole form of a four-member band and in particular a band free of any tricks, gimmicks, or poor execution of musical technology (Even some of German Heavy Metal heroine DORO PESCH's style falls into this category as well). They are not the first band to use synthesizers, but the mostly simple riffs fall short in the minds of fans of the more eclectic CHEAP TRICK, LOU REED, PETER GABRIEL, or even FRANK ZAPPA, and PRIMUS who all capitalized on experimentation to considerable success.

If the appeal of DEVILS IN HEAVEN were to be maintained, they were then left to trap themselves in their songs which refrained from notable changes, thereby leaving them confined just as considerably to their genre of choice if they were to please a major record label's demands.

The absence of a victory on Australia's Star Search would've been much worse, especially after no less than 6 appearances, but in turn, we may have to consider just how they received an invitation in the first place. The UK had Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test, in the '70s, but like both journalists & famous fans of modern Rock would attest, feelings of appeal in style last like dog-years and any one band's thunder can be stolen, whether internally, or externally.

So, were DEVILS IN HEAVEN simply not "American" enough? This would be the external explanation for failure, on one hand of this time, if it's true. The songs themselves, sounding both dated and limited to the dynamic feel of bands in this era of ubiquitous success eschew a relatively superficial onset of popularity, which is ironic, ironic when considering their humble beginnings in their home island of Tasmania. So this aspect of their downfall is the internal, similar to the "cluttering" behind the presence of NWOBHM bands in the UK which made them give off a possibly predictable vibe in their peak years of activity.  A track like "Listen to My Heart" sounds very much like a House or Club song, a popular set of terms for tracks well suited to dances in venues within metropolitan areas of North America, and is comparable to UK beauty SAMANTHA FOX's style. For all the popularity of Heavy Rock consisting of Rhythm and Blues influences like WHITESNAKE, SCORPIONS, and THIN LIZZY, a track like… "Your Beating Heart" opens with a Blues-like guitar-lick with a temporary presence inducing disappointment when the track concludes after the succession of the previous, mostly guitar and synth-laden songs. In short, youngsters would grasp the style of DEVILS IN HEAVEN too comfortably or quickly to remain entertained, and some older, mostly American fans would settle for the band passing them by easily, especially when the existence of bands like RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS, EXTREME, 4 NON BLONDES, SAIGON KICK, UGLY KID JOE, and LIVE were making their marks & standing up to be counted amid both tours & MTV - aired music videos of their hit-singles.

Speaking of "hit singles", the track "Say A Prayer" was released as a COLUMBIA records cd single in 1990, & has been sought after eagerly for its availability on EBAY as the one single that almost had them signed alongside to future major label artists such as MARIAH CAREY, CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, and ENTOMBED!

There's a few important lessons that may be learned & currently embraced by the efforts of DEVILS IN HEAVEN, however. It would be noted, mostly through the act of accepting USA bands as legitimate recording artists within foreign record labels, that a sense of pluralism can not only keep any one band alive at once, in a single moment in time, so long as it is done with good faith & a plan to continue writing. It was Joe Elliot of DEF LEPPARD who noted that their content mattered and that it mattered not simply because of public pity for their troubles, after all. Some bands at this time even went so far as to form their own labels, and as Hip-Hop legend Chuck D (of PUBLIC ENEMY) remarked in a tv interview in the early 2000's, it was the record industry that was in trouble, and not the music industry, after the controversies over file-sharing were more frequent, & the questions of the ethics behind promoting & ultimately releasing music were imposed upon the audience of the time through mainstream news reports.

If you are still an older fan of "AOR" then you may reserve a bitterness for the record industry, with a subsequent irony that comes from reasonably comparing the disdain felt here to how diehard fans of cult, underground Metal toss their heads at any attention from vain record labels. Therefore, we may conclude that the short journey of DEVILS IN HEAVEN was that of loving their art in spite of losing the chance at reciprocity from the demographic they were "wooing", so to speak. It is with the re-issue of "Rise" that we may finally be able to exclaim that they may succeed only with internalized intimacy from the listener, who would later realize the beautiful music they made clashed with the ugliness of the music industry, and in further spite of moderate use of progressive songwriting techniques through their style.

Songwriting: 5
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 5
Production: 10

3 Star Rating

1. Liberation
2. The Night is Over
3. Take Me
4. Ain't it a Wonder
5. Ships in the Night
6. Say a Prayer (One Departed)
7. Age (Simple Man)
8. All Night
9. Listen to My Heart
10. Dreams
11. Your Beating Heart
12. Heart, Mind, & Soul
13. Ships in The Night (1990 version)
14. Ain't It a Wonder (1990 version)
David Whitney - Guitar/vocals
Matthew Shield - Keyboards
Nelson Tabe - Bass
Phillip Crothers - Drums 
Record Label: AOR Heaven


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Edited 24 September 2021

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