By Liam Knowles

Apr 9, 2021 11:55

To say that Devil Sold His Soul have been on a bit of a journey would be an understatement. Since their formation in 2004, they have been one of the most consistently revered and respected bands in the UK’s underground metal scene, and have played all over the world with bands like Cult Of Luna, Underoath, Norma Jean, Envy and more. In 2013, after three well-received full-length releases, vocalist and founding member Ed Gibbs left the band and was replaced by Paul Green, formerly of The Arusha Accord. In 2017, after releasing one excellent EP in the six years since Green joined, Devil Sold His Soul invited Gibbs to temporarily re-join the band and share lead vocal duties on a series of live performances celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album ‘A Fragile Hope’. The synergy between the two vocalists was so clear and effortless that Gibbs re-joined the band permanently, leaving us with the dual-fronted behemoth that exists today. 2021 sees Devil Sold His Soul releasing their long-awaited fourth album, the equal-parts captivating and devastating ‘Loss’, which is their first recorded material to feature both vocalists working side by side. We caught up with both Gibbs and Green to discuss the upcoming record, unreasonable fan expectations, adapting to working together after both being the sole frontman of the band for a period, and some slightly concerning COVID-related studio safety precautions.

“We’re really excited about the new record coming out. It’s been a long time coming.” Gibbs has visible glee in his eyes as he contemplates the fact that the new album is mere weeks away from release. “I’m excited and relieved, but I’m also a bit nervous, to be honest” adds Green. “There’s a lot of songs left for people to hear, and a lot of songs that are very different to the songs that people have heard so far.” He’s probably right to wonder what people will think; fans of more experimental music are notoriously difficult to please, and Devil Sold His Soul have already had some people complaining about the length of some of the singles they have already released. “Its stupid”, Gibbs states, shaking his head. “There is a weird thing in certain genres where people think that song length determines the quality, which just makes no sense to any of us whatsoever. The longer the song, the better the song? It’s ridiculous. It just reminds me of “the longer the note, the more dread” from Peep Show.” “There are always going to be people gatekeeping” adds Green. “According to them, we’re not a metal band. In fact, we ruined metal. Honestly, that hurts my feelings.”

Varying song lengths is just one of the many changes that long-time fans of Devil Sold His Soul will have to get used to. This is a whole new band, with a whole new approach to writing music, although the dual frontmen don’t appear to have been phased by the prospect of writing together for the first time. “It was a lot easier than any of us thought it would be”, states Green with Gibbs immediately nodding in agreement. “The two of us just inherently got on really well. We instantly became close mates. Neither of us have that “frontman ego” thing, we don’t see it as standing on each other’s toes, more sharing the burden! We’re happy to leave space for each other and also to leave space for the music. It’s not about making sure each person has an equal share, it’s about taking it section by section and working out what’s best for each song.”

Devil Sold His Soul are clearly a band who know themselves very well. This is likely helped by the fact that guitarist Jonny Renshaw also produces all the band’s material and, according to Gibbs, he always knows exactly what needs to be done to get every nuanced detail just right. “He’s crazy good. We didn’t have a massive budget for the first album, but we knew we wanted to take our time with it. At the same time, Jonny wanted an opportunity to hone his skills, so we decided to just let him do it all and we were really happy with it. For the next album we were told that we had to let someone else mix it, and none of us are happy with how that record ended up sounding, so we immediately went back to letting Jonny do everything. No one knows better what we should sound like than we do, and Jonny is so good and constantly getting better and better, why would we get anyone else involved if we don’t have to?” Green agrees completely. “I’ve never had someone push me like Jonny does. I’ve worked with plenty of people over the years and they’ve all been fine but Jonny’s extra attention to detail and willingness to push really makes a difference.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an article in 2020 or 2021 without touching on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but Gibbs considers the band lucky that it didn’t impact plans as much as it did a lot of other bands. “In the broad scheme of things, it didn’t really change anything. We were practicing together regularly in February, ironing out the last few lyrics and getting ourselves in shape to record, then I got covid in March 2020 and it absolutely knocked me on my arse. All the gains I had made in preparation for recording were reset to zero, and Paul and I couldn’t get together to practice properly, so I had to just drive around in my car screaming and singing to get myself back up to scratch and not sounding shit. By the time we were going into the studio, things were easing off a bit in terms of lockdown, so got in to record and took all the necessary precautions to make sure we were all distanced and safe whilst doing our parts.” Green grins, “Yeah we tried to limit it to a maximum of two fully naked hugs per day. Then we lathered ourselves in anti-bac and slithered around like eels.” We suggested that they do this again, film it and use the footage for a music video, but we’re not sure they’ll go for it.

‘Loss’ is a stellar piece of work and will no doubt gain Devil Sold His Soul a slew of new fans, but the band are keeping their optimism cautious, as they are acutely aware that the industry has changed a lot since they started. “There’s so much more music out there now. Back in the day if you wanted to put a song out, you had to pay to host it yourself, you had to put a lot more manual work in. Now, with streaming, you can just put it out there whenever you want and hope that people will pick up on it. I don’t know how we’d fare if we came out as a new band today” Gibbs contemplates. “I’m not sure I want to know.” “The crippling self-doubt is the same as it always has been” adds Green, clearly not letting over a decade in the industry give him even a hint of an ego. “Not to mention the relentless cynicism about the industry and the amount of absolutely useless people that exist within it. That said, we’ve had a great experience with Nuclear Blast Records so far, we’re one of the smaller bands on their roster but they haven’t made us feel like that at all. They’ve put a really good team behind us and they’ve had our backs and fought our corner on more than one occasion when planning this release.”

The current incarnation of Devil Sold His Soul are clearly as solid a unit as it has ever been, and that is evident in the quality of ‘Loss’, which is an ethereal steamroller of a record. If you’ve always found post-metal bands like Cult Of Luna and Isis a bit impenetrable, Devil Sold His Soul take that sound and make it much more palatable without losing an iota of impact. Hopefully it won’t be long until they’re able to tour this stunning album and cement themselves once again as one of the UK’s most important underground bands. Just…maybe don’t take any personal hygiene tips from them.