A final statement that reaffirms the occult preoccupations and malevolent instincts that made their previous two full-length efforts so much more than mere contributions to the rise of devilish old-school rock over the last few years, III: Tabula Rasa... comprises the demos made by The Devil’s Blood in preparation for a follow-up that would never be brought fully to life. And yet there is something utterly complete and conclusive about this dark and dangerous music.
While both 2009’s The Time Of No Time Evermore and 2011’s The Thousandfold Epicentre revelled in the psychedelic possibilities thrown up by a full studio production, this raw and stark blueprint for album number three benefits hugely from its supposed sonic limitations: the menace of earlier recordings brought into sharp focus when presented as a series of intricate, skeletal sketches.
It starts with the 22-minute sprawl of I Was Promised A Hunt, by far the most ambitious piece of music The Devil’s Blood ever attempted, and one that incorporates many more ideas than the occasionally myopic reinvention of 70s rock and ritualistic psych that first brought the band to our attention. Veering from thunderous pomp to fragile acoustic interludes and passages haunted by interwoven vocal lines and eerie ambience, it deftly bridges the divide between familiarity’s comforts and a simmering sense of unease, Farida Lemouchi’s ethereal howls skimming nimbly across a backdrop of guitar-driven horror and disquiet.
Although briefer and more traditional in structure, the likes of The Lullaby Of The Burning Boy and …If Not A Vessel? possess that same essential oddness in abundance, the haziness of demo-quality sonics simply adding to an overall sense of dark forces conspiring beneath the songs’ skin. Meanwhile, the woozy textures and mellifluous rumble of White Storm Of Teeth take the album into virtual shoegazer territory, albeit via the air of an acid trip gone horribly wrong.
While other bands jump on the occult bandwagon with little more than funny costumes and clumsy rip-offs of old Pentagram riffs to justify their existence, The Devil’s Blood’s inspirational wickedness and insidious charms remain undiminished. Lord Satan be praised.