On a scale of how seriously metal takes itself, Devil Master fall somewhere between the operatic evil of vintage Mercyful Fate and the splatterpunk punchlines of Municipal Waste, with a reckless full-frontal assault of a sound that often feels like a hybrid of the two. Draped in satin cloaks and oversized decorative spiderwebs—with band members boasting names like Disembody Through Unparalleled Pleasure and Festering Terror in Deepest Catacomb (better known as Chris Ulsh of Power Trip)—the Philadelphia metal-punks lean hard on escapist forms of magick conjuration as they tear their way through direct, efficient rippers that strike a satisfying balance between death rock theatrics and thrash metal slash-and-burn. Camp isn’t what holds their songs together, but it definitely sets them apart.
The Halloween hellraising aesthetic that Devil Master has made into their brand has proven fertile ground for what is also some of the best blackened hardcore in recent years. Following a pair of raw EPs and a stellar debut album in Satan Spits on Children of Light, Devil Master enter the magic circle anew with Ecstasies of Never Ending Night, an album that by the band’s own admission is “more mature and self-confident,” and to that I would add: focused. The band’s proclivity toward goth-tinged exercises in aggression take on more sophisticated and varied forms here, often still aiming for stylized violence but finding new avenues through which to explore what shape that might take.
There’s also plenty of muscle to go around, as evident in “Enamoured in the Throes of Death,” a track that represents everything Devil Master does well—shimmering chorus-pedal riffs, gruff and demonic growls, melodic menace—but bolstered with a beefier sound that feels like a leveling up for the Philadelphia heavy metal troupe. The first half of the album sets up and knocks down an invigorating sequence of similar tracks one by one, each one building off of the primal yet theatrical roar of the band’s debut in a blaze of darkly sinister flourishes. It’s not until the more brooding goth metal of “Abyss in Vision” that Ecstasies of Never Ending Night takes a more dramatic turn, its more nuanced post-punk riffs drawing influence from early Cure records even as the group ascends toward a moody instrumental climax. As Devil Master ease into the second half of the album, the more adventurous their songs become, whether through the sing-speak psychedelia of “Funerary Gyre of Dreams & Madness,” the towering riff brigade of “Shrines in Cinder,” or the utterly stunning closing pair of epic gallop “Precious Blood of Christ Rebuked” and demon disco “Never Ending Night.”
You read that right: disco. While a certain generation of metalhead might become physically ill at the prospect, Devil Master shrug off those outdated ideals in favor of a metal that revels in a more egalitarian form of hedonism. If hardcore punk and black metal are appropriate soundtracks for nights of supernatural debauchery, why not something you can dance to? After all, if Ghost can borrow heavily from Abba, why not add more hi-hat to some corpse-painted death rock. Which takes nothing away from the fact that Devil Master have crafted an album that’s heavy metal through and through—and in an old-school definition of the term at that. But in the same way that nylon webs and gritty VHS D.I.Y. videos have a place in their approach, so does a libidinous, physical pulse. Ecstasies of Never Ending Night is every bit the more mature second album the band promised, an even more focused representation of everything they did well on their debut. But that doesn’t mean they forgot how to have fun.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.