My cassette copy of the fourth release by French duo Deveikuth, entitled VII-π-III, arrived in a rather attractive cloth bag marked with their ‘Desolation’ rune. The band included a handwritten message thanking me for my support, and promising ‘Funeral Drone x Funeral Noise x Not Music’. The tone for the album is set first by the artwork, which depicts a blinded priest-like figure enveloped by putrescent tentacles – somewhere between the antagonist of a Weird Tale and Mark Hammel in The Force Awakens – and the deliberately ‘pus coloured’ tape itself.
First track ‘VII’ provides a somewhat misleading start. Staggering drums lead into warm, feedback-drenched doom riffs sounding something like the US band Jex Thoth, which are soon accompanied by a melancholy female soprano, provided by session artist Julie Mathieu. It’s really quite beautiful for a while – not dissimilar in fact to some of Howard Shore’s compositions for The Lord of the Rings films. This initial offering of hope, however, is cruelly torn away a few minutes in as an amazing distorted bass glissando – nasty yet also lazy somehow – precedes a switch to shrieking, blackened vocals. It’s my favourite part of this album, truly shocking the first time you hear it.
The vocals of Deveikuth’s male singer Zero are seriously Weird: at several stages sounding genuinely un-human – surely the goal of any extreme metal vocalist. On ‘π‘, he mixes long, sustained cries and sighs that burble and crackle in the throat, with heavily-distorted mutterings so low and dirty in the mix they blend into in-distinction with swirling guitar noises. Later, for ‘III’, Zero’s shrieking blasts of pain are deeply unhinged and unsettling.
The sound of guitar feedback between chords is crucial to genres like sludge, drone and doom – to some extent as important as the actual chords themselves. Listen to bands like Conan or EyeHateGod, for example, and there’s real tonal character to the piercing whine produced by their powerful, top-of-the-range amplifiers, before they thump into a hefty groove. Deveikuth’s guitar tones, too, are full of such character. The bass gargles and squeals, guitars are gnarled and pained, abused so much they become at points like computers glitching and fizzling. ‘III’ begins with an odd drone of bass feedback, with feedback producing rippling sounds like blasts from the horn of a death ship, unfolding across a sea of deep reverberation.
Deviekuth play Funeral Drone/Noise that captures bitter grief in sonic form, their minimalistic dirge an abstract, unrestrained outpouring of emotion rather than pent-up, private mourning. I listened to this cassette a lot whilst I was reading Susan Hill’s classic ghost story The Woman in Black, and the two works really compliment each other. ‘VII’ is characterised by beauty amongst ugliness, just as Hill’s titular figure had her youth and happiness ripped from her by death and was marked by disfiguring disease.
Whilst listening to VII-π-III, like Hill’s protagonist upon encountering the Woman in Black herself, “I felt not fear, not horror, but an overwhelming grief and sadness, a sense of loss and bereavement, a distress mingled with utter despair.”
Weird Metal Blog highly recommends VII-π-III, especially to fans of bands such as Sunn O))), Scepticism, and Bell Witch. The album also comes recommended by Cvlt Nation who included it in their Top Ten Sludge Releases of 2015.
VII-π-III is out now on Breathe Plastic Records, a Netherlands-based, cassette-only label bearing the slogan: “Only tape is reel!” You can listen to VII-π-III and other releases on Deveikuth’s Bandcamp page.