Philadelphia's Devil Master first arrived back in 2016. Their demos—adorned with pink accents and occult imagery—disappeared as quickly as they came out. Social media, particularly Twitter, picked up the music and it spread like wildfire. It is, of course, for a great reason. The mysterious group builds a wild concoction of black metal, punk, and death rock. Over the course of roughly two years now, they have two demos to their name: Self-Titled and Inhabit the Corpse. If you're like me and missed all the copies of the demos, fear not. Relapse Records recently picked up Devil Master and has packaged and re-mastered their demo material into a compilation entitled Manifestations.
Devil Master's eight tracks take punk's jaunted grooves and black metal's vocal and guitar motifs then distill it in death rock's swagger. It's like if Christian Death met GISM at a seance. Much of the first half of the compilation enforces this idea. Opener "The Devil Master (Devil Is Your Master)" and the following "Distorted Paths/Fear the Future Gleam" channel more hardcore punk and d-beat. They ultimately double down on this during "Sex With Succubus" and later, "Obscene Charade".
Meanwhile, "Failure to Die", "Inhabit the Corpse", and "Blood On My Shroud" all incorporate dark ambient textures and synth samples—which are often used a lot in black metal and death rock. These three tracks, especially "Inhabit the Corpse", also feature first-wave black metal stylings reminiscent of Celtic Frost or Mortuary Drape. Yet, strewn throughout all of these songs are glimpses of nostalgic fear through various lenses.
The group's aesthetic derives from classic examples of horror. The mentioned samples sound straight out of 50's horror flicks. The conjurations of Hell and witchery in their imagery is what early black metal capitalized on. There's also the brashness of early hardcore punk thrown in as well. It is all so wonderfully there in Devil Master's music. The remastering process for these two demos only intensifies these tenets. The original demo releases appeased a lot of fans who have their ears to the underground. It showed a band very early in its career very much in control of their vision. The symbiosis between Devil Master and Relapse is only going see this band take off in the coming years.
Speaking personally, Devil Master has been one of my favorite discoveries in the last couple of years. It's incredibly exciting to see big things happening for such an intriguing and thrilling project. Devil Master is working on a proper full-length debut for early 2019 with Arthur Rizk, which will be coming out on Relapse Records as well. Pre-order a copy of Manifestations now ahead of its official release next week. Also, find the band on Facebook and Instagram.