Artist: The Devils Of Loudun
Album Title: Escaping Eternity
Label: The Artisan Era
Date of Release: 11 February 2022
Another day, another nice find to bring to the pages of manofmuchmetal.com. Today, it’s the turn of US based metal band The Devils Of Loudun to show us what they’ve got, and I can tell you, they’ve got a lot to show us. Formed in 2009, the Seattle-based quintet have been in no rush to bring their art to a wider audience, taking their sweet time to hone their craft, and find their feet. As such, ‘Escaping Eternity’ is the band’s debut full-length, having only previously released an EP back in 2015, ‘Entering Oblivion’…or so I believed having read the press release. As it turns out, the band also released a five-track EP entitled ‘Enduring Creation’ in 2016. Thank goodness I do my own research.
Based on the content of ‘Escaping Eternity’, it is hard to argue against their measured, some might say slow, timetable. Over the course of ten tracks that span just shy of a full hour, Devils Of Loudun bring us their personal take on death metal, one that encompasses melodic death metal, symphonic metal, technical death metal, classical music, and the odd other element or two for good measure, including some lush Gothic undertones. On paper, you wonder whether the resultant output might resemble a bit of an incoherent mess, a case of ‘too many cooks’ so to speak. However, delightfully, you’d be wrong. And when I say ‘you’, I mean ‘me’ of course.
Instead, The Devils Of Loudun show an impressive technique and some sharp songwriting to make the end result more than palatable to lovers of extreme heavy metal. Mind you, when you discover that Devils Of Loudun boast two members of the equally impressive Aethereus, the quality of this band becomes much less of a surprise, and also helps to explain the more sedate pace of progress over the years. Behind the mic is Aethereus’ vocalist Vance Bratcher and he is joined by his guitarist bandmate Scott Hermanns, alongside guitarist Drew Tuel, bassist LJ Cline, and keyboardist Ben Velozo.
I’ve been digesting ‘Escaping Eternity’ for a while now and the more I listen, the better it gets too. What I particularly like is the way that the band have kept the aggression and heaviness at the heart of their sound. Whilst al of the other elements weave in and out of the material, what’s never compromised is the extreme nature of the music. Whether it’s a melody, a lead break, or a more grandiose orchestral flourish, the attack never wanes. To some, this might be a negative, because there’s seemingly no end to the brutality. But for me, on this occasion, I think it’s a real strength and serves as a relatively unique selling point for Devils Of Loudun.
What makes this all the more impressive is that the album carries with it a sense of grandiose theatre; you’d think that the incessant blastbeats, the neo-classical guitar lines, and the low, guttural growls would obliterate everything in their path. However, keyboardist Ben Velozo has to be commended for the way in which his input is never trampled upon, or marginalised. The opening ‘The Scourge Of Beasts’ demonstrates this point perfectly, as for all the extremity, there’s also a sense of serene opulence, as well as a few moments when the Gothic trappings are allowed to come more to the fore, adding great texture to the naked aggression.
From there, the scene is set and the remaining nine songs continue in a similar vein. If you’re looking for some clean crooning, or a burst of anthemic melody, then your search will be in vain because neither is on this particular aural menu. Melodic it may be, but not in the form of sing-along choruses or giant hooks. In fact, that has to be the only thing for me that is slightly disappointing on ‘Escaping Eternity’ – I undoubtedly enjoy the output with each passing listen, as I discover something new almost every time. But I’m hard-pressed to pick out individual songs for extra praise because, to a certain extent, the melodies don’t stand out quite enough, or stick in the memory firmly enough. I’m familiar with the songs as I listen, as, for example, I can immediately tell I’m listening to ‘Ex Nihilo’ because of the more pronounced neo-classical guitar extravagance, the incredibly impressive bass work, or the galloping nature of the tempo at times. But when it ends, I am hard-pressed to remember much about it.
And that’s the same across the album. The quality is exceptionally high, with each and every one of the five musicians giving everything to the cause, but for all the technique, all the apparent drama, and the grandiosity, I feel like I want just a little more overall to pull me in for repeated listens.
That said, I do find myself drawn to the savage groove that features heavily within the excellent ‘Anamnesis’, not to mention the overt pomposity of the keys that give it an increased gravitas. I find that ‘The Death Of Sleep’ benefits from a theatrical quality that strangely reminds me of Children Of Bodom a little, whilst the sinister organ-led intro to ‘Arcana Imperii’, followed by a wailing lead guitar catches my ear more and more each time. In fact, if more of the album had similar powerful melody as the closing track, my score would be a lot higher.
I feel just a little guilty by offering the critique that I have here, because I do recognise the scale of what The Devils Of Loudun have created here, especially given that this is a debut full-length effort. Put it all together and it’s no mean feat, I can tell you, and I do enjoy the end product. However, when I am being hit from all sides by great technical death metal at the moment, the offerings need to come harder and stronger all the time to stand out from the crowd. ‘Escaping Eternity’ does come hard and fast, but I strongly believe that they have the talent and hunger to deliver even more in the years to come. Impressive, but with room to further improve, The Devils Of Loudun have nevertheless laid down a powerful marker, and have easily done enough for me to keep an interested eye out for what comes next. Despite my small misgivings, give ‘Escaping Eternity’ a listen, because it’s definitely worth checking out.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: