Japan’s Sonic Flower began in the early 2000s as an offshoot of Church of Misery. They released one self-titled album in 2003 and then broke up in 2005 following some aborted recording sessions. Reforming briefly in 2007, only to break up again the same year, Sonic Flower lay dormant for 14 years until they finally reformed again in 2019. A full-length album with a new lineup including a vocalist is scheduled for later in 2021. To whet their fans’ appetite in the meantime, the band are first releasing Rides Again (Heavy Psych Sounds Records), which consists entirely of tracks recorded in 2005 from the aforementioned aborted sessions.
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With part one covering the conception, gestation and birth of Devilment, the second part of our feature sees guitarist Daniel Finch opening up to Ghost Cult about the sound beneath the skin, and the elements that feed in to their debut album The Great & Secret Show
“What do they say about assumption being the brother of all fuck-ups?” (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
Before I heard Devilment, I’d been told it was like the Gothic bits of Cradle of Filth with the poppy bits of Rammstein. I’ll be honest, my interest was piqued, but taken with a spoonful of sugary scepticism. Although Cradle had enjoyed a romping return to form on The Manticore (Peaceville), prior to that you have to go back to 2004 and Nymphetamine (Roadrunner) for the last genuinely, consistently good Cradle album.
But here’s the rub, The Great & Secret Show (Nuclear Blast) isn’t a Cradle of Filth album. While the cleaning up of Dani Filth’s vocals may come as no surprise as recent recorded output has seen him heading down that route, a route which allows his intelligent chronicles to be aurally more lucid, it may be something of a revelation just how big, fun, catchy and groovy the music that Devilment have produced actually is. It’s not black metal, Jim, and there are no pianos and top hats in forests, but it’s got a huge rock club groove running all the way through it, like a jackpot seam of coal.
“Dan wanted it to be a side-project, it was important it was seen that way, and I think that’s one of the negative things is that Cradle fans go “It doesn’t sound like Cradle”, but my thing is “Why would it? Why would you want to go out and do a band that sounds just like your day job band?” So while it does sound a bit like the Goth (Goth, not Gothic…) bits of Cradle mixed with a poppier Rammstein, there’s more to it, there’s more than a hint of a White Zombie bounce, for example. “I am influenced by the 90’s metal sound, but in a weird kind of way. I liked the nu-metal stuff when it came out. I liked it when bands did dropped tuning, like when The Almighty did Powertrippin’ (Polydor), Alice In Chains as well. Not too sludgy, but that dark groove.
“And, obviously, there’s Pantera as well.”
“A friend of mine hates Pantera” continues Finch, reliving the musical memories that form the core and crux of who he is as a musician these days. Many of us of a similar age to myself and Daniel have taken that circular journey, going first through the more extreme or divergent elements of music, but ending up back at the roots of the tree, with the classics of the 1990’s that defined our musical journeys. “I remember, we took a bus trip to Donington Monsters of Rock, the 1994 one when Sepultura played as well. Anyway, Pantera came on and he’s all ‘Fuck them, I’m going to go get a beer’. And he’s stood there at the bar when ‘Walk’ comes on, and he’s looking around and everybody is nodding away, even the bar staff, and he said he just couldn’t help but nod, too. That idea has always stuck with me. Mid-paced riffs and those big grooves. That works for me.”
It’s a concept Finch has retained as a core principle of Devilment. “So that’s the thought, if you’re at a festival and you walk into a tent and we are playing, would you bang your head to it? If the answer is yes, then we’re doing the right thing. It’s very important to be a good live band these days. Look, it’s every musician’s, every metal head’s dream, from hearing your first WASP record and air-guitaring off your bed with a baseball bat, surely!
“I’ve tried to do the fast black metal bands, and you’re playing shows, and everyone’s looking at you weird and all you can think is “Fuck me! Everybody hates me”, but you play a groovy bit and heads start banging, people start smiling…”
The lyrics and song titles on The Great & Secret Show are very tongue in cheek, redolent of Martin Walkyier in his pomp and prime, with Mr Dani Filth both curator and orator of puns and fictions. “Oh, he’ll like that (Walkyier reference). He’s massively influenced by him, Venom and Celtic Frost. He had free reign and didn’t have to write to the Cradle formula, there’s no ‘Gothic Romance In The Kingdom Of Death or Destruction’ expectation, so you can have a song title like ‘Even Your Blood Group Rejects Me’ or ‘Girl From Mystery Island’.”
Yet when even the Overlord of Metal Comedy, Lord Devin Townsend (in the midst of two albums about a coffee and flatulence obsessed alien, mind) declares metal and humour is a dangerous combination, then isn’t this just inciting some of the more po-faced members of the Metal Archives High Council to tut and wag their fingers? Is it confrontational, or is Devilment not worried about people taking you seriously? “I didn’t write the lyrics. For him, he’s been able to have a free reign on what he wants to write about lyrically. But, I mean, they are all very Dani Filth lyrics still. He creates these stories and massive landscapes and ideas.
“I’ll admit, at first, I was like “Err… that’s not what I had in mind…” but you see where he’s come from on it.
“And, well, he is a bit kooky…”
The one thing that is clear about Devilment and their long term future is, that this is a band that will need to balance around the demands of their frontman’s other band. How big an impact does it have on the band? “Well, to begin with, we just fucked around for a bit. Dani was busy doing Cradle, so obviously we couldn’t put in the time you normally would with a new band, so it was difficult to get the momentum going, but, now this is my thing. Devilment has been mine and Dan’s baby for the last few years.”
It is clear, though, that while this is Dani’s side-project, it’s Daniel Finch’s main beast, so when the vocalist and lyricist heads back to Cradle, what happens then? Will we be seeing more of Daniel Finch now that Devilment has seen his profile and stock rise? “I’d like to (do another project). It’s difficult because I’m not sure what my record contract says as to what I’m allowed to do! I mean Aaron (Boast – drums) does Kemakil and Colin (Parks – guitar) does The Conflict Within, while Lauren (Bailey – keys) and Nick (Johnson – bass) do Vardo & The Boss, so they all have their little bits. We’ve started writing the second album, and while the whole Cradle thing is happening, we want to knuckle down and write the next album.
“If I get time, I’d like to write some stuff for people, doing some songwriting, maybe not metal, maybe indie/goth, and I’ve always been into folk music. But at the same time I’d love to do something that’s really fucking extreme, stupidly heavy, eventually.
“But, look, Devilment has to come to first for me.”
The Great & Secret Show is out now via Nuclear Blast
WORDS by STEVE TOVEY