Not much is known about Hungary’s Devil Seed, even as of writing this article their self-titled debut album has not received much attention with no related or past projects to speak of. All we have to go off of is the band name presumably being a reference to the song off of Candlemass’s King of the Grey Islands. Lucky for us, as far as hints go, that’s a pretty good one. Marrying the synth-rich riffy atmosphere of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus with powerful, front-and-center vocals reminiscent of Solitude Aeturnus, Devil Seed’s self-titled debut album presents an unexpected and incredibly welcome slab of epic doom firmly rooted in the classics of the genre.
Following the rather apocalyptic introduction, it’s clear they’re going to give you no quarter; this is an album made by doom fans for doom fans. “Doomsday Riders” is content to plod along for 9 minutes at a glacial pace and indulge their every Candlemass-inspired whimsy. “Oh great” you think, “another band on the pile of epic doom bands to have cropped up in the last few years”, but something struck me during this first 9 minute epic: Devil Seed has excellent taste and restraint in when to fill empty space and when to let the fat open chord ring. As a result, “Doomsday Riders” crafts a profound sense of foreboding punctuated by a massive chorus. Beyond just the songwriting, the production really helps this album along. Somehow everything manages to sound LOUD yet clear without jeopardizing the other elements which gives the whole album a titanic weight capable grinding you a fine paste; ya know, good doom!
Frankly, I’d have been content with well executed Candlemass worship, but as I continued into the album a few other elements made themselves apparent which set this album apart. I applaud Devil Seed in their willingness to approach rather “taboo”, to be a little dramatic, elements in metal in 2020. “Heinrich Kramer” is the best and most obvious example. Those of us that lived through the EUPM mania of the 90s and early 2000s all have a bit of a deep-seated aversion to excessive synths as a part of our collective trauma and yet, it works here! This song is absolutely drenched in synth and while it doesn’t come off nearly as foreboding as the previous song in the tracklist, it comes off fun and refreshing in contrast, rather than cheesy and contrived. Combine this with the downright catchy chorus and it makes for a very bold choice of song on an underground epic doom album that works against all odds.
I think most all listeners of this album will agree though, that the star of the show here is the one-two punch of “Firecult” and “Plague Rose”. These two songs exemplify everything you could want out of epic doom: almost-but-not-quite cheesy, spooky atmosphere punctuated by infectiously catchy riffs, huge melodic vocals, and often critically overlooked, massive drum fills. I can’t think of many doom bands using blazing double bass to create an oppressive atmosphere and Devil Seed must’ve thought that was as cool as I did when they came up with it to do it on two back-to-back songs! “Firecult” and “Plague Rose” both exhibit an interesting songwriting style in that there is really only one main riff for the majority of the song around which the other elements of the song develop and grow and from which they only briefly depart. “Plague Rose” almost feels like a tribute to the Italian doom scene boasting a catchy repetitive riff which invokes images of Scoob and the gang (or the occult, take your pick) and heavy synth use. The many subtle nods to the more unexplored segments of doom tell me that Devil Seed is not hopping any apparent trend, they’re the real deal.
The only real flaw with this album is the same one nearly any good doom album risks. The fine line between crushing, glacial pace and run time. In the 50-minute run time there is definitely 35-40 minutes of stellar material; 10 minutes of fat on an underground epic doom album is hardly a mortal sin. All in all I’m super stoked to hear more from this band and they’ve really unexpectedly put out one of my favorite doom albums of 2020!
Favorite track: Plague Rose