Friday 20 December 2019

Deviltears - Верни мне сердце (2019)

Country: Russia
Style: Gothic Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 3 Dec 2019
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I review a lot of albums recorded in foreign languages, but Deviltears don't usually do that. They're from Rostov-on-Don in Russia, at the northeast end of the Black Sea, but their previous three studio albums have been recorded in English: Night Vendetta, The Keys and What Dreams May Come. It looks like they shifted to Russian in 2018 after thirteen years together because that's when new vocalist Viktor Ivanov arrived. The album title translates to Give Me Back My Heart.

Deviltears play gothic metal, but with a surprising set of influences listed on their About page on Facebook. For one, none of the giants of the genre in the west are there, such as Paradise Lost, Cradle of Filth or Moonspell. For another, the list does include a pair of unexpected bands: W.A.S.P. and U2. Lastly, the gothic metal bands that do make the list all hail from Finland, well over a thousand miles to the northwest and past four countries: To/Die/For, Poisonblack, Entwine, HIM and Sentenced.

Those influences put them well on the commercial side of gothic metal. While it plays on the rock side of the fence often, it's also often much heavier, with a lot of power chords, riffs and guitar solos from the two guitarists, Sergey Sapukhin (one of two remaining founder members) and Anton Yemelyanov (who has since left the band). However, it never dabbles in extremes, there is lots of piano and the vocals are always delivered with melody foremost in mind, even during the verses. I kept turning the volume up because it always felt a little quieter than it should.

I preferred the crunch that came along with the heavier songs, which kick in on the second half, and the added power allows the band to play around with contrasts. One great example is Швы, or Stitches, which starts out quiet and then builds with keyboards but finds an agreeably heavier vibe as it runs on to a close. My favourite solo is on По ту сторону горизонта, or Across the Horizon. My favourite riff is the one that introduces Сталкер, or Stalker, even though that track promptly shifts to an electronica backing. Each of these songs is heavy but not exclusively because each of them is also soft.

I like these contrasts, which work for me even though I don't understand any of the lyrics. I only have the English song titles because of trusty Google Translate. Hopefully it isn't lying to me today. The underlying tone is one that fits commercial gothic metal, most of the songs suggesting dark but not extreme ideas. That seems to fit earlier material, which I haven't heard. I do wonder how they sounded with a different vocalist singing in a different language.

With the darkness not too overt and melody high on the band's priority list, I could see this album playing well to melodic rock fans, and not only on a pair of overt ballads that wrap things up: Открой глаза, or Open Your Eyes, where even the solo has softer edges, and В зареве, or In the Glow, which is even softer yet, built not from guitars but from almost new wave trappings. The commercial rock/metal that pervades the first half ought to play well to that audience too, especially the second single, 100 дорог, or 100 Roads, an especially slick number with fantastic hooks.

This is one of those solid albums that works to different expectations. The melodic rock fans will love the first half and be OK with the second, while the heavy metal fans would reverse that. Everybody wins.

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