Last time I reviewed DeVicious, for their third album, Phase Three in 2020, I pointed out that every one of those albums had featured a different lead vocalist. Well, they've changed up again, albeit not quite quickly enough to affect this album. Their new vocalist is Baol Bardot Bulsara, a fantastic surname for a rock singer, but I'm told that it's still Antonio Calanna on this fourth album. That's a surprise, because he was a huge highlight on Phase Three but seems to have been submerged a bit in the instrumentation this time out and he doesn't shine as brightly.
In fact, I'd say the same for every other aspect of the music too because, while this is still a decent and enjoyable album, it comes off worse in a direct comparison to its predecessor in almost every way. The only aspect that it wins out on is that there's a slightly harder edge to this album. I'd call them a melodic/hard rock band, but they're a little heavier than that suggests and I was surprised to find that they have a page on the Metal Archives, who call them melodic heavy metal/hard rock. Certainly they're closer to metal here than last time out, even though everything is utterly rooted in melody rather than power. Certainly they also cross the rock/metal boundary more often.
I rather like Heroines, with its punchy riff and keyboard embellishments but it stands out from its peers more obviously than last time, where each song kept outdoing its predecessor, but I had no problem rolling from the last track back to the first and listening through again. Those songs were more immediate but also grew more with further listens. These grow a little too, as we get used to them, but not so obviously and not so far. I think it's fair to say that I liked Phase Three more on my first listen than this on my fourth, and that just kept on getting better. I'm not convinced about an increasing growth in Black Heart.
And I fully realise that everything I've just said is going to seem more negative than it's meant to be. While the quality is down on last time, that doesn't mean that the quality isn't still there. It's still a strong album with catchy hooks everywhere. The title track starts with a "nanana na na na" hook that other bands would kill for and I heard Abba in a lot of these melodies, especially in Not What It Seems, which nods to Dancing Queen? Just like last time, everything is inherently catchy, down to the drum beats. I can't call that a common achievement even in the ever catchy world of melodic rock and that can't be underplayed.
Not having gone back to the first two albums, I wonder if there's a shift in play here to change the band's sound. Clearly, they keep cycling through singers, but it feels like Radivoj Petrovic's guitar is getting heavier and more prominent but Denis Kunz's keyboards are getting poppier and more perky, while not giving up any prominence. Neither is inherently a bad thing, but it feels as if they are moving in different directions. I wonder if that's the reason for the vocalist turnover too. It's fair to say that Calanna can hit some impressive notes, but he's better in a lower register and the choruses where he's way up there throughout get old fast.
And I bet I'm sounding negative again without meaning to. If I aimed to be negative, I'd call out an insanely quick fadeout to Liar that just feels wrong. The only way to justify that would seem like a need to meet a sixties single length threshold, but, with the exception of the delightful closer, an anomalous instrumental piano piece called Axenya's Dream, it's the shortest song here. Mostly, I liked this album, consistently and throughout. The thing is that I loved the last one, which was my Album of the Month for June 2020. No spoilers, but, while I've certainly heard much worse in June 2022, this won't be my Album of the Month.