Album: The Atlas – EP
Not all who wander are lost.
There are those who spend their entire lives roaming from continent to continent, nomadic in nature and resting any place they can find shelter. Some travel without a goal or end result in mind—they simply move because they can’t stand the notion of standing still, of stagnancy. Their “goal” is far from tangible—rather, more metaphysical and spiritual in nature, directed towards introspection and self-discovery.
Then, there are those who wander—still living in spite of the sensation of stillness and being stationary—but with direction. They travel with purpose, looking for something that doesn’t exist within themselves. They follow a map—or in Devthbed’s case, an Atlas. Following on the heels of their acclaimed EP Serpent’s Tongue, The Atlas sees the band embrace a migratory nature, moving far beyond the likes of their dark, depressive debut and into more atmospheric and inventive territory. Conceptual, creative and completely immersive, The Atlas sees Devthbed build on their bold and blisteringly intense foundation with a newfound passion for atmosphere and ethereality. Lurid at moments and barely lucid at others, Devthbed redefine themselves, and, in the process give the listener something new and huge in the process.
Whenever I start a review with the sense or implication that an artist—especially an artist with a successful previous release or unique sound—has changed things up, there are always skeptics.
“Oh no! What if they aren’t heavy anymore?!”
“I bet now they’ll just sound like every other band.”
If you’re reading this as a fan of Serpent’s Tongue (and you should be), then you can put those worries—and whatever else you can think of—to rest right now. The Atlas is the sound of Devthbed spending the last several, several months searching for something and refining it, ensuring to retain the most integral parts of themselves and infusing new, exciting and eerie elements. Percussionist Clay Mapelli is proof of this. With “The Wanderer” and “The Lantern” as punchy and powerful as ever, Mapelli’s raunchy side is still firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, “The Stairwell” and “The Dark” see him more mellow and muted—channeling post-metal and alternative metal acts (think MaybeSheWill or Deftones) to create fun, funky and strong drum lines that are less in-your-face and serve better as a scaffold for bassist Casey Benz to build atop. Benz adds low, crunchy grooves to the EP’s heavier tracks and serves as an intermediate between Mapelli’s drums and the fretwork from Kristian Campos and Charlie Sterba. Campos and Sterba are where the instrumentation on The Atlas takes its largest deviation from Devthbed’s previous material; where songs like “The Lantern” are still sharp and sinister, “The Specter” and “The Dark” take that brutalizing, gritty and bleak sound and add in high-fretted and soaring leads to create an offputting and haunting atmosphere. That is what Campos and Sterba do best—make parts of The Atlas pants-shittingly creepy, while making others as immense and cruelly heavy as humanly possible. The last ninety seconds of “The Dark” see them doing this in brilliant fashion, gunning it from zero to sixty without care.
Devthbed—once home to a vocal element that would be easily likened to the suicidal brays of a man staring down death and depression—have, in keeping with titles like “The Wanderer,” moved on. Don’t get me wrong—the sharp, shredding screams of frontman Ty Ignacio still strike terror and tedious, painstaking spiritual decay into the core of the listener’s existence, but that isn’t all they do. Ignacio has widened his range to pitched yells, low bellows and crooned singing that’s as chill-inducing as creaking floorboards in an empty house. Adhering to a conceptual tale throughout The Atlas, Ignacio’s immense vocal dynamism opens up new doors for Devthbed. Yes—it’s different—but the diversity is magnificent. “The Wanderer” is haunting and catchy, while “The Stairwell” and “The Specter” are churning and abusive. Throughout the five full tracks The Atlas provides, Ignacio’s vocal effort is practically perfect, appealing to fans of Dark Days era Barrier, Darke Complex and even splashes of alt-metal giants Deftones. Ignacio’s vocal performance is miles beyond that heard on Serpent’s Tongue, from lyrical prowess to delivery, dynamism and diversity.
Devthbed have moved from a solid but relatively predictable take on metal and metalcore and expanded upon it infinitely. The Atlas serves as its namesake—a guide which leads the listener directly to a unique and engaging experience laden with crushing heaviness and contagious catchiness both. Creative and chock-full of artistic merit, yet still relevant in mosh pits and venues around the country, Devthbed’s refined-yet-ruthless take on heavy music is a brief but bold foray into something new and exciting for them as musicians and for their style of music altogether. While it may not be enough to catapult them to worldwide stardom, The Atlas is definitely enough to get the ball rolling in that direction—making it something fans of anything aggressive will want to consider themselves well-read in.
For Fans Of: Barrier, Words from Aztecs, Distinguisher, Deftones
By: Connor Welsh