Devil Master (Loud Guitar Goth Lives!)
On today’s episode of Imaginary Subgenres, we’re discussing the loud, fast, disgusting deathrock of Pennsylvanian punks Devil Master. FFO: Beer, puke, black eyeliner, Satan.
How did I stumble upon Devil Master, you ask? Well, algorithms are funny things. Those employed by services from Netflix to Bandcamp to Gmail in order to sell you more stupid shit or ensure your continued use of that service are almost invariably janky. And yet, if you crave chaos or have an open mind, sometimes the disastrously scattershot recommendations of an algorithm can hit you with a sweet surprise. In today’s case, I was at Bandcamp checking out a gloomy pop band called Black Marble (h/t Mike K.), whose music is vividly reminiscent of being depressed in the ’80s, when I saw THIS in the recommendations field:
None of the other “People Who Bought Black Marble Also Bought This” recommendations made any sense–and this didn’t either. And yet, in presenting me with Devil Master, it is as if that screwball Bandcamp algorithm had peered straight into the cobwebbed crypt of my rotten soul. In that instant, it didn’t matter what the music might sound like. The image said it all. How could I not click on it?
Boy am I glad I did, because I’ve been sitting around wishing that Halloween came more than once per year and that the horror movie industry hadn’t peaked way back in 1987 with Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, and here comes Devil Master to deliver me from my horrorless torpor.
Hailing from the necrotic abyss of Philadelphia, the band has two EPs out on German DIY punk label Erste Theke Tonträger. The first, awesomely titled Inhabit the Corpse, was released on November 1st of last year. With four songs that get in and out (of you) in under twelve minutes, it’s a short but maddeningly intense trip straight to the inflamed and parasite-ridden colon of Hell. After a brief, spooky piano intro, “Inhabit the Corpse” comes ripping out of the ground like a cranked-up zombie bat. The agile and frenetic guitar leads never let up, spurting wildly from a bedrock of no nonsense hardcore style drum-fuckery and palpable bass, while the vocals bark blackenedly in the darkness above. It’s the perfect dropout anthem for partying in a cemetery, guzzling whiskey as you rip up flowers and kick over gravestones. What’s next in store? More of the same. Speed, malevolence, unholy melody. If you need a break from twelve-minute blackgaze concertos or eighty-minute single-track tests of the limits of human patience, then Devil Master just might be your poison.
Their second EP, self-titled, was released in January of this year. Another four songs, another twelve minutes, another bloodbath. What’s immediately apparent this time around–beside the fact that Devil Master is here to rock your face clean off–is that the band has leaned deeper into the deathrock vibe that was hiding around the corners of Inhabit the Corpse. While remaining relentless in its hardcore punk velocity and sub-human thrashy aggression, this EP is much creepier. How did Devil Master achieve this? By adding more eerie melodies, more dark vibes, and 25% more Satan. It’s an intoxicating brew that sounds like first-era Christian Death caught in mid-lycanthropic transformation into Sabbat.