Wednesday 19 July 2023

DeVicious - Code Red (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 26 May 2023
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Oh, it's good to hear bass again after the latest Enforcer album—in fact, it begins with a rich bass intro—but the Swedes had me aching for speed and, of course, DeVicious are a melodic hard rock band so that's never going to happen, even if they mysteriously have a Metal Archives page. They continue in the same vein here as on previous albums, which means from a positive side that it's elegant hard rock with a crunch beneath it but hooks on top that get stuck in our brains; and from a negative side that there's yet another new vocalist in place, showing up after five years fronting Ronni Le Tekrø's band TNT in between stints by their most frequent singer, Tony Harnell.

This new name is Baol Bardot Bulsara, that last name auspicious for a singer, and he's the fourth singer across five albums. That's hardly promising, especially given that everyone else has stayed constant, the only other line-up change ever being the departure of Gisbert Royder, their rhythm guitarist on their debut album, in 2018 without a replacement. I don't know what they're looking for in a vocalist, as it's clearly something more than singing ability, which previous singer Antonio Calanna had without a doubt, but I hope they find it soon, whether with Bulsara or whoever ends up singing on their next album.

He shows that he has a fine set of pipes on the opener, Are You Ready for Love, especially with his closing note, but he has a smooth voice so he fades into the music a little, with Radivoj Petrovic's guitar stepping up to challenge for the foreground and Alex Frey's bass not far behind. He sounds not unlike Alex Falk of Fans of the Dark, but he's not as overt, content to stay a little further back in the mix and that makes this a deeper but less immediate album. We have to choose to allow the songs in and explore them. They're not going to kick down the door and impress us like they did on Phase Three a few years ago.

My favourite song is an easy choice and that's House of Cards. I expect catchy hooks from DeVicious and this is the most exquisitely catchy song here. It also wraps up gloriously to cement its position at the top of this particular tree. Next in line is a much harder task, but I might plump for No More Tears. It sets itself up as a ballad from the outset but it kicks into gear nicely and ends up firmly in the vein of Magnum, which is no bad thing for an elegant melodic hard rock band to do. After that I'm stuck, because the album's very consistent.

What remains is the catch to that admirable consistency. I found DeVicions in 2020 with their third album, Phase III, which was an absolute peach and an easy 8/10 from me. I gave it my Album of the Month for June of that year. Black Heart was clearly not up to that standard but it was still a good album, highly enjoyable throughout, and this one follows that closely. I've listened through a few times and never not enjoyed. I don't feel the need to skip any tracks. Nothing drags or lets the side down. There's no filler here. However, there's also nothing that really steps up to challenge those two highlights.

Maybe Madhouse comes close because of its classy opening, yet another rich bass moment. Sorry, Enforcer, I'm going to relish these and there are plenty to choose from. There's another neat one on Raise Your Life, for instance. Walk from the Shadows seemed like a throwaway song to close out the album on my first listen, but it told me off for that assumption unceremoniously on a second. I would put that one up with Madhouse as the best of the rest now, possibly ahead of it. However, if it wasn't for House of Cards, the catchiest song here would be the bonus, Penthouse Floor, which is a re-recording of a track from their debut album. Never Say Never, back in 2018.

And this leaves me in two minds. Are DeVicious trying too hard, given that this is their fifth album in only six years? They've only left 2021 free of a new studio album, probably because of COVID and that's a pace that almost nobody maintains nowadays, even if it was expected back in the eighties. The fact that everything works suggests that they aren't, that they're firmly up to that frequency, but the lack of obvious standouts and the constant turnover of lead vocalist suggest that maybe a slower pace might benefit them. Who knows? I just know that I'm looking forward to number six in hope of another 8/10. This one, like its predecessor, though, is a safe 7/10.

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