THE DEVIL & THE UNIVERSE
In 1816, Lord Byron invited a group of youthful art-lovers to spend an idyllic summer in his Geneva's lakeside mansion: the famed Villa Diodati. Included in that exceptional guest list were the literary couple Percy and Mary Shelley, Mary's step-sister Claire Clairmont and the physician John William Polidori - two women in their teens and three men in their twenties, afire with rebellion and revelry. To avoid the unexpected dreary weather, Byron and his invitees stayed indoors nearly the whole summertime and entertained themselves, not only by writing scary stories - Mary conceived the idea for her novel "Frankenstein" during those days - but also indulging in unfettered orgies of drug, sex and occult. Drawing on that spirit of free-thinking and transgression, Austrian musical project The Devil & The Universe has created its second full-length album: "Haunted Summer". As has been customary since the release of the band's debut EP "Evoking Eternity", magic and religion in themselves are at the back of the songwriting and John Carpenter's film scores also cast a long shadow over this new record.
The sounds in "Haunted Summer" bring us closer to that presumed tangle of eroticism, perversity and arcane experiences that were lived in Byron's holiday home at that time. Not for nothing, Ashley Dayour (Whispers in the Shadow/Coma Divine), David Pfister (Neigungsgruppe/Sex, Gewalt und gute Laune) and the recently joined Stefan Elsbacher (Black Manna), carried their goat masks, habits and Tarot cards to an small chapel located in a forest of Styria, where they spent an entire month to invoke those spectres of 1816. Inspired by the eerie environment and, furthermore, supported in creation by supernatural methods such as automatic writing or necromancy, The Devil & The Universe approaches us now to polymorphous, ritually dark realms where all the aforementioned can be truly felt.
But even most important is how naturally "Haunted Summer" holds the listener entranced from one fictional stage to another, due to its effective blend of ancient and modern, electronic and acoustic, computers and exotic instruments. Whatever your musical taste, you will certainly find much to appreciate in this album. There are addictive tracks woven with ethnic-trance, grinding rhythmical threads, such as "The Goat Head"; songs that bridge the immemorial and the cutting-edge in intriguing ways: either merging danceable, tribal-flavored percussion with ominous electronica sweeps and flourishes, like the ritual-paced "Calling Of The Shades" or "Stygian" - whose old-age strings loop sticks in mind for a long while; or triggering an occasional rapture on the basis of a defocussed cinematic style, as occurs in "Cloak Of Dispersion", "Phantasmagoria" and "Gipfelrausch". In other tracks, a dirge-like, chilly atmosphere prevails, as in the case of "The Curse Of Byron", which sounds archaic and cold-wavey at the same time; the advanced video-single "Danaus Plexippus", simultaneously bitter and lovely, with stringed drums and synth harmonies that embody the wistfulness of eons gone by, while its central beat keeps the things catchy; or the striking title track, which places us in 'haunted' context through road-to-perdition drum thuds and slowed-down, murky riffs with traces of Black Sabbath.
The bonus material includes "Elisa Fields" and "Womb Of The Night" (both previously released as part of the 12" single "What Time Is Love?"), as well as "Haunted Meadow" and "Diodati 1816", two brilliant score-style pieces that make art of spookyness by setting ethereal chords of guitar, suspenseful piano notes and ghostly voices in contrast against minimalist, horror-synthed backdrops. No wonder that John Carpenter himself likes the music of The Devil & The Universe. As far as I'm concerned, I'm hooked on these ancient-tronic jams with dashes of multiform perversion.
Review by Billyphobia