WORDS: Perran Helyes
It’s inevitable that DEVIL YOU KNOW are going to be continuously compared to KILLSWITCH ENGAGE given the involvement of Howard Jones and the atmosphere surrounding his split with the band, especially now his former outfit have reunited with original vocalist Jesse Leach and rocketed right back to the very top of their game both live and in the studio. Howard’s new project in comparison hasn’t exactly burst forth from the get-go in a blaze of glory, last year’s debut The Beauty of Destruction being a rather bland modern metal by numbers affair, the kind of music perfectly suited for an early afternoon slot at the now fallen smorgasbord of US radio metal pandering Rockstar Mayhem Festival. It’s a pleasant surprise then that just over a year and a half in the making, follow-up They Bleed Red is amusingly obvious title aside significantly improved.
They Bleed Red is built from the same materials as its predecessor, the chugging grooves and Howard’s instantly identifiable clean choruses, but with far more weight behind them and put together in a significantly more engaging manner. Opener Consume the Damned makes this clear with its simplistic but driving main riff, Stay of Execution provides a much appreciated dose of menace and intensity with blast beats given extra kick by the crisp drum and cymbal sound, and Shattered Silence and How the End Shall Be are built for inciting circle pits and frantic windmilling. Broken By the Cold meanwhile brings a strange wah effect on its opening chords that almost seems to conjure Toni Iommi forth into the post-Killswitch era before closing the record off in more typical stomping manner.
Sonically DEVIL YOU KNOW again sound like a quintessential modern metal band with distinct and glossy production. Howard’s vocals are still a tad overproduced (most painfully obvious on the cover of Eye of the Tiger available as a bonus track) but the performance he gives is a good one, capably handling his screams and of course delivering those soaring cleans. On Your Last Breath his vocal patterns trading off with an otherwise fairly standard riff elevate the song significantly, and then there’s The Way We Die which is the biggest anthem he’s put his name to in a decade, gliding high above bouncing quadruplets transitioning into swaggering verses with vocals displaying a more savage edge almost reminiscent of Liam Cormier of CANCER BATS.
While the execution is at a good standard though, DEVIL YOU KNOW still deal in an idea that in 2015 is often limited in the peaks it can reach and at almost 50 minutes They Bleed Red does sag somewhat at points over the course of its runtime. At around the halfway mark Let the Pain Take Hold appears as the band sadly succumb to the unshakeable need to include a run of the mill radio ballad, on the one hand a decent enough track providing some variation but on the other totally sapping all momentum from a record which could have been a perfectly satisfying no nonsense beating. Moreover a couple of the tracks presenting heavier fare don’t fully manage to sink their teeth in and could easily be dispensed with for the sake of a more direct and punchy whole. They do ultimately by and large hit the mark, and fans of the previous album and Howard-era KILLSWITCH should be pleased, certainly surpassing his final effort with that band. KILLSWITCH ENGAGE continue to vehemently surge forward with Jesse Leach, and after something of a faceless new start Howard Jones seems now to be really finding his feet.
They Bleed Red is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.