CD Review: Devilstrip – Rise

Released on August 1, 2014 (Devilstrip)

Track List:
01. Not What You Need
02. Go
03. Including Me
04. Are You Ready
05. Kill The Headlights (Roll)
06. To The Enemy
07. Ugly
08. Light Up The Room
09. Love, Hate, Die
10. She Said

Band Members:
Marc Wasmund – vocals and guitar
Graig Lindgren – bass and vocals
Jimmy Gray – drums

Mixed and mastered by Dylan Roth.

There have been some amazingly talented power trios over the years, including Rush and most recently The Winery Dogs. The next one may just well be Ohio based Devilstrip, which consists of singer and guitarist Marc Wasmund, bassist Graig Lindgren and drummer Jimmy Gray. The band touts itself as “fearless, independent and original hard rock from Akron, Ohio” — I can’t speak to Devilstrip being fearless, but they have the independent portion nailed down while the original part remains a question mark for me.

I have to say that I enjoy the first half of Devilstrip‘s debut album Rise a little more each time I hear it, but feel overall that the band plays music closer to alternative than pure classic rock or metal. Perhaps it is Wasmund‘s voice, which reminds me a little bit of Live‘s former lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk on Throwing Copper — the only record that I know from that band. Or perhaps it is due to the second half of Rise, which is more subdued and less riff oriented than the opening tracks. Whatever the case, the guys in Devilstrip are certainly quite adept at playing their respective instruments and seem to be years ahead in that regard compared to what can be found on other bands’ debut albums.

The first two songs on Rise — opener “Not What You Need” and the first single “Go” — are built on monster guitar riffs and rock nice and hard. “Go” is a good choice for a single because the enjoyable verses seem to be accompanied by an acoustic guitar before the band rocks out during the chorus. The track also really showcases the group’s versatility in tackling different musical styles all in one song. “Including Me” reminds me of the type of catchy song that the Red Hot Chili Peppers could have come up with — although I find that Devilstrip lose momentum on both “Go” and “Including Me” during the middle portion by slowing them down too much, but those are only temporary blips. “Are You Ready” is built on a nasty guitar riff that would surely have a crowd head-banging along at a live show. Predictably, Devilstrip slow down “Are You Ready” in the middle section, but I find that it works well for that song. If all the tracks were as good as “Not What You Need”, “Go” and “Are You Ready”, Devilstrip would have a sure winner on their hands with their debut CD.

Unfortunately, I lose interest during the second half of the record. The last five songs on Rise do not seem to have the same hunger and aggressiveness as the first five. “To The Enemy” should have been played a few notches faster rather than the mid-tempo speed that the band adopts for it — the guitar solo, or whatever sounds that Wasmund elected to do for it, makes me cringe. “Love, Hate, Die” never seems to pick up for any extensive stretch and just like the closing “She Said”, a lot will depend on whether you really like Wasmund‘s singing as the songs are focused to a large extent on his vocals. I for one don’t find his singing that compelling so am not moved by those last two tracks.

Rise is one album where I will simply pick and choose a few key tracks to keep listening to from this point forward — likely the first five, and in particular “Not What You Need”, “Go” and “Are You Ready” — and simply forego the rest.

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2014

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