DEVISER – Evil Summons Evil (2023)REVIEW

With the gloria of Satan resplendent at the bloodred peak of their path, a maestoso envisioning of eternity is revealed. In the past we’d rarely found Greek melodic black metal band Deviser jogging in place, relishing in the moment on their most classic releases but just as well thinking two (or more) steps ahead as their procession grew. On their fifth full-length, ‘Evil Summons Evil‘, their goal is establishment of canon as singularity, an experience which finally roots ye olde ambitions as institution and personae which is readable yet still charismatically charged as their wildest peaks of inspiration. The result is a sleek and menacing anthem after anthem sort of affair, an entirely steadied ship which may or may not play to the individual as well as it’ll reach a crowd with its stamping majesty.

Deviser formed by way of musician Matt Hnaras in Crete circa 1989 playing a primitive style of death/thrash metal on their first demo tape (‘Forbidden Knowledge‘, 1990) which featured Horrified‘s bassist on drums and a member of cult band Asfyx on keyboards/production for the session. It wasn’t a fantastic tape but it was a unique relic of the early cult when bands like Varathron and Necromantia were likewise built from death metal interest and general heavy metal fandom. Their sound had evolved through ~1993 as a full line-up formed with the addition of Nick Christogiannis on bass, Depression‘s guitarist and the drummer from Nocturnal Death (pre-Zemial) for their first 7″ (‘The Revelation of Higher Mysteries‘, 1994) which’d served an interesting passageway for their 80’s extreme metal influences before their next similarly brief demo (‘Thy Blackest Love‘, 1996) offered a clearer hint of where their ambitious debut album was headed. ‘Unspeakable Cults‘ (1996) is arguably a hidden gem, a unique underground black metal record cognizant of melodic black metal, black/thrash metal, and even gothic metal (per Moonspell, Nightfall, etc.) as if letting loose a half decades worth of ideas once capably staffed.

That first LP was my main motivation to pursue the band’s discography otherwise, with the key addition of its follow-up (‘Transmission to Chaos‘, 1998) which further developed the unique soul of the band, leaning into mid-paced and dramatic pieces with heavy use of keyboards. It was an interesting trajectory for a Greek black metal band in the sense that most bands which’ve sustained for the long haul had a relatively linear path with a consistent personae developed beyond their demo stage. The spirit of the band circa ’96-’98 is recognizable as part of Deviser‘s signature on ‘Evil Summons Evil‘ today and this is the basal context needed to enter that realm but it is worth mentioning the more aggressive continuation of that sound found on the lesser known ‘Running Sore‘ (2002) and the SepticFlesh influenced maximal symphonic sound of the band on their return several years later (‘Seasons of Darkness‘, 2011). Those last two records aren’t hugely important for context but they do illustrate that Deviser were not necessarily beholden to the traditions of any one sphere, not stuck in the 90’s at the very least, though their output was most consistent for their first three full-lengths.

Deviser have gone all in on this record between its anthemic Rotting Christ-esque mid-paced stomp up front, well-curated music videos (“Cold Comes the Night“, “Death is Life Eternal“), some notable guest vocalists (members of Dark Funeral, Nightfall, and Chaostar) and a strong aesthetic thanks to cover art from the legend Kris Verwimp. Thought they were never a band to sound like they were part of the Athens scene in terms of idiosyncratic rhythmic movement which most people recognize as the Hellenic black metal sound these folks have always found their own riff upon those expectations, this time leaning into a more ‘epic’ feeling with mid-paced, often orchestrally juiced and dramatic pieces across the board. If there is a meaningful takeaway we could pull from these folks’ greater discography and apply to this new album it is that this one marks a shift towards realizing the more performative ambitions of their 2011 record while reigning it in to a sequence of ~3-4 minute anthemic ‘heavy metal’ structured pieces in a style of black metal which was most popular during the early 2000’s, the sort of melodic extreme metal influenced stuff labels like Century Media built their empire upon in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That isn’t to say that this is ‘Sleep of the Angels‘ in spirit, the leads aren’t such a hook here, but it should appeal to similar sensibilities as we hit upon songs like “When the Lights Went Out” and “Sky Burial”.

Most of ‘Evil Summons Evil‘ hits the reset button from song to song, that is to say that these pieces work best as singles or additions to a playlist as standalone statements which generally sustain continuity but do not flow together as a sentient sequence. This only works for my taste because most songs here are immersive per thier heavy use of orchestration, the sinister heavy metal romp which they persist with, and lyrics from the revelatory (read: performative) Satanic perspective. When the shambling corpse depicted in the “Colds Comes the Night” video finds his way to Satan and the crosses turn downward the personality and presentation here is well reflected and should at least get a smile out of the longtime metal fan. The first three tracks generally act as the major introductory body, the big showcase for where Deviser are at today in peak refinement and with an unusually familiar sound. It isn’t until “Evoking the Moon Goddess” (assumedly now on Side B) that we begin to see the fleshy heart of Deviser‘s past and present bloom into bloody grandeur with its orchestral surround and dramatic build.

I’d appreciated the steadiness of pace and the consistency of ‘Evil Summons Evil‘ overall but at that point in the running order, nearby the pensive choral lilt of “Sky Burial”, it became increasingly difficult to pick up on a standout moment since most of these pieces read and function in similar ways. Though I hate to reductive or throw too heavy a comparison in the works at that point the final two songs on the tracklist, “Serpent God” and “When the Lights Go Out”, really do just sound like solid Rotting Christ pieces from their more mid-paced canon, without ever breaking into serious speed or aggression. There are a couple different ways one could view this modus but, again, I think the focus on standalone pieces of a similar register speaks more to a ‘best face forward’ introduction to the Spotify crowd more than it does the full album listener, and I fall heavily on the side of an album as a complete experience.

Nonetheless when Deviser decided to go “all in” with this record in terms of production values, memorable pieces, guests and such they’d done a fine job of generating charismatic value in the experience which reads as a freshened addendum to the personality already available to their discography. ‘Evil Summons Evil‘ sets itself apart from the past just as well as it fits into the oeuvre of the entity, creating a new voice for the band which does a fine job of updating and representing their somewhat unique station in Hellenic melodic black metal. Overall I think they needed at least one more aggressive, inductive piece to tear through for the sake of adding texture to a record which reads as nine fairly similar, mid-paced heretical anthems. A moderately high recommendation.

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