By Kyle Harcott
On their Magister Mundi Xum demo, Norway’s Devil traverse a similar proto-metal line as Sweden’s Ghost. While Devil’s influences don’t immediately appear as diverse as Ghost‘s, and their recording is nowhere near as slick, there’s a definite lo-fi, at-times-amateurish charm to portions of the demo – and damn if I can’t get it out of my head. Definitely in the vein of early Oz-era Sabbath, and NWOBHM-era doom.
The intro of “The Arrival” sets the stage well, as a rider on horseback gallops through a stormy night, only to arrive at a forest cottage and be met by a host who greets him with “Good evening, I guess you’ve come to see… THE DEVIL!” Sure, it’s cheesy, but hell, their heart’s definitely in the right place for unabashed Sabbath riff-worship.
Speaking of, when the glurching, Orgasmatron-esque riff to ‘At the Blacksmith’s’ starts, coupled with a hearty double “alright now!” from vocalist Transgrud, you’re either in on the ground floor wholeheartedly, or you’re likely shaking your head in disapproval. Me, I’m of the former mind – it’s no secret I have a soft spot for brazen Sab worshipers, and Devil hooked me right away with their sing-along riders-of-the-a-poc-alypse chorus. Arguably the most catchy track of the demo, ‘At the Blacksmith’s’ is a foot-stomping gem.
Keep in mind as you listen, this is without a doubt demo-quality, rough and definitely unpolished. There were a few times throughout the five tracks when I caught minor drum flubs and said to myself “they kept that in?”, but regardless of the recording, for the most part the songs are definitely there. There’s not a lot of variation, mind – this is all pretty standard fare, four-on-the-floor mid-paced proto-metal. If you can keep that in mind, and not have your expectations too high, you’ll dig it. Things get a little middle-of-the-road with ‘Spirit of the Cult’ and ‘Time to Repent’ but even if they were not as potent as the other tracks, each song still packed its share of hooks.
For me, though, the meat of the matter is the more urgent ‘I Made A Pact…’ with its talk of selling souls to dayyals and hanging out in the middle of pentagrams. At times, the chugging pace and caustic guitar work in the song even reminded me of My War-era Black Flag, maybe if you had Cronos singing overtop of Ginn’s loping riffs. The demo wraps up with its most ambitious track in ‘Welcome the Devil’, the guitars calling to mind self-titled-era Saint Vitus.
If you’re looking for reinvention of the doom wheel, this is not the place to go. It’s definitely imitation-as-flattery, but in places the demo holds it own for sheer stick-in-your-brain catchiness. By all means, Magister Mundi Xum is hit-and-miss – when it does hit, it’s pretty damn fun. Look past the recording quality, the at-times downright-goofy lyrics, and you might dig this as much as I did. Will be interesting to see what they come up with on their upcoming full-length.