Five years after the release of their already very promising debut full length “Necrophiliac Cults”, Spanish Death Metal five-piece DEVOTION has finally returned to the scene with their second album entitled “The Harrowing” via Memento Mori. The band still spices up their brutal old school Death Metal with some horror soundtrack like keyboards here and there, which sets them apart quite a bit from all the other Death Metal bands that are currently out there. To find out a bit more about DEVOTION, we contacted vocalist Vicent Riera for the following interview. Enjoy!
As far as I know, you started the band back in 2013, so who was the driving force when it came to the origin of DEVOTION and what was the reason for it? I mean, your bass player Julkarn must have had a heavy schedule with GRAVEYARD already, you and David (Garcia – drums) have both been involved in the band OBSCURE before and you have also been active in other Spanish Death Metal underground acts in general for several years, so why did you guys feel the need to express yourself musically in another band of this genre as well?
“Julkarn quit shortly before the last album’s release, let’s say for personal reasons… We didn’t know that much about what he did with GRAVEYARD, but they got in touch quite often, as Julkarn lives in València and not in Barcelona and that’s like 400 km away. I think that’s the main reason why he had to start a new band down here and play the guitar that he likes so much, since he’s the bass player in GRAVEYARD. I started with OBSCURE in 1989 and stayed in the band until it broke up approximately in 1995. Then, me and Anselmo, the bass player in OBSCURE, started a new band called NADIR, and we recruited David the drummer for that band, which was more on the Gothic Doom side. It lasted for almost ten years, until we decided, together with two other former members, to reform OBSCURE. That very unproductive and pointless resurrection lasted about five years. During that time we just wrote one new song and played some occasional shows. Many members came and went during this period and approximately by the end of 2011, when just two members were left, I decided to quit and moved to Norway for six months. But before moving to Norway I contributed backing vocals to GRAVEYARD’s “The Sea Grave” album and decided to start a new band with Julkarn, Agressor (ex – DOMAINS, HORRIPILANT), Nocturn (ORTHODOXY, PROFUNDIS TENEBRARUM) and Nosfer (ORTHODOXY, PROFUNDIS TENEBRARUM). Then there have been a few line-up changes, the last one, as you know, has been the departure of Julkarn and the comeback of Nosfer.”
Did you have similar favorites when it comes to bands / releases, stuff that all of you inspired in the same way?
“I guess we’re quite diverse in that way. I normally listen to Dark Ambient and neo classical music, but I love Death Metal and even some aggrotech stuff. David, the drummer, listens to Heavy Metal and lots of psychodelic bands. Nosfer is more into Doom, evil Death Metal and Black Metal. Txito, the bass player, is into brutal Death Metal and quite technical Death too and finally Jesús is into Black Metal mostly and some Death Metal, preferably melodic. I can’t talk about any other people’s inspirations. Mine are the early Metal bands like JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH, URIAH HEEP, RAINBOW and the likes, then some progression to more extreme Thrash and everything changed when I watched BOLT THROWER live in 1989 in London. When I got back home my will was to create a Death Metal band at any cost. I guess some of the events are all messed up but that’s the way I recall them.”
Your debut full length “Necrophiliac Cults” was released in 2016 via The Horror Dimension. Why did it take you so long to finish it and have you recorded any demos prior to the album that you just didn’t release officially? I mean, The Horror Dimension must have had a reason to release an album from you guys, so how did you get together with them and what can you tell us about the label in general?
“We had just recorded some rehearsals with little quality and saw we had the potential and the songs to do a decent Death Metal album. So, one day Javi Félez from Moontower Studios came from Barcelona and recorded the drum tracks and took them back with him. Then an obscure period came, during which we tried to record the rest of the instruments at the practice room, but had lots of problems in the technical area. I remember the PC at the room didn’t work properly and we had no money to invest in that, as we had done nothing in the past and had no income from anywhere. Finally Julkarn went to Barcelona one weekend (I don’t know the reason) and spent some time recording the guitar and bass lines, but it could have been more than a year after the recording of the drums. Then, as we had the cheapest deal with the studio, we had to wait for other financially better bands to do their stuff at the studio until our shit got mixed. During the process, Igor Mesmer (R.I.P.) recorded the keyboard tracks, intro and outro. The mastering was done at my friend Fernando’s studio in València. The deal with the label came from a guy who was quite close to us and knew us well from some shows we attended together. He happened to have a record label and just became interested and offered us the chance. We accepted right away as we had nothing on the horizon at that moment. He saw our potential and decided to go with it. For a debut album I’m quite pleased with the result.”
Tell us a bit more about the material on the album… who wrote which songs or did you work on them all collectively? How does your writing differ from each other? Who brings in which influences to the DEVOTION sound and style?
“There were at least four songs, which were written and developed collectively and three, which were written by Nosfer, Julkarn and myself and then developed at the rehearsal place collectively. I think everyone has got different influences and very varied sources of inspiration, and that’s what makes music so magical.”
Has Julkarn never considered to use some of his song ideas for GRAVEYARD instead?
“Never ever. We’ve always been two different bands with the same Death Metal roots, but I guess we both are tripping into different directions.”
When it comes to the lyrics, do you have a strict concept that you base them around or do you write about just everything which fits to the music?
“It may sound strange, but for some tracks, when I listen to some riffs, the song title comes to me and I mostly start the lyrics based on that brain bolt. Some other lyrics are based on ancient biblical events or historical ones, and then I twist them to show the evil behind those made up stories. And the rest are mostly poems or writings that I adapt to the songs and try to make them fit perfectly to the musical atmosphere. The topics are very varied indeed.”
What can you tell us about Igor Mesmer, who was responsible for the keyboards and effects on “Necrophiliac Cults”? He wasn’t a full member of the band, was he?
“No, he couldn’t become a full member of the band, which he eagerly desired. Due to the cranial cancer he relapsed soon after he finished the recording of the keyboards for our first album. It was a very hard experience. He really was an unbelievably gifted musician, an admirable piece of human being. Smart, creative and capable of playing every instrument that fell in his hands. A terrible loss. He’ll always be in our memories and part of the band in every album we release.”
The cover artwork, which was created by a guy from Indonesia named Agus Wibowo, is pretty impressive… How did you find out about him, considering that he’s not really that well known yet?
“I met Agus by chance on Facebook and started to follow him. First he draw a cover art for the “Necrophiliac Cults” album, but someone in the band saw great similarities with another cover from a South American Black Metal band, so we discarded it. Then one day, while checking out his back catalogue, I came across the drawing that would become the cover of the album. We asked him for some changes and once it was finished, one person in the band (I don’t think it’s necessary to tell who he was) decided that he wanted to be in the band no more and quit. I don’t think it was just because of the cover choice, but it was probably what he used to leave the band behind.”
What exactly is Pathologically Explicit Recordings? According to Metal Archives the album was co-released by them and they are also mentioned in connection with the digital single ‘Thrones Of Elders’… By the way, I suppose that was just a teaser song from the album or was it a different version maybe?
“Pathologically Explicit Recordings is not the real label which released the album. That was The Horror Dimension, run by a friend of us. The other labels that appear on the back side of the CD, I guess just helped a little bit financially and with some distribution stuff. But I tell you, I really don’t know shit about their share in this. The ‘Thrones Of Elders’ single you mention was just something that should have never been done. It was an unmastered and probably not properly mixed version of that song. It seems they were very thrilled and eager to let it out.”
Did you play any shows in support of the album or prior to its release?
“Our first unofficial show was a party I threw for my birthday in 2014, two years prior to the release of “Necrophiliac Cults”. During that time we played lots of shows and festivals, much more than we did after the release. Let’s say we haven’t had enough share of live shows and we would have wanted to play quite a lot more, but circumstances have been very dire sometimes and we couldn’t play as much as we desired.”
After the album was released you went through some line-up changes… What happened? How did you get together with Luis Garrido Millán (bass) and Jesús Francés (guitars) and what about J.B. Quilez, who used to be the band’s guitarist in 2017… why did it not work out with him?
“The first to quit, some months before the release of the album, was the bassist Agressor. Txito replaced him, but as we were already in the process of recording, he didn’t have the chance to record the bass tracks. Then it was Nocturn who quit and refused to record the guitar tracks that he was meant to perform and we ended up as a quartet for that period. For a long time we’ve been quite comfortable with being just four, but as we started to write the songs for the second album, we realised we needed a second guitar player and that’s when problems began. Jesús was in the band for a while, but left because he got sick of playing. He’s now back and in full form, fortunately. Quilez also joined us and played some shows with us and he seemed to be quite at ease with us, but then his wife got really sick of a serious illness and he had to quit to take care of her. After that we had another young guy who assisted at some rehearsals and seemed very interested in being part of us, but one day he disappeared and never answered our messages or phone calls. The whole thing took us a lot of time, because all of them had to learn the songs and we spent a lot of time with it. That, altogether with our laziness and tendency to delay things, ended up in almost six years for the release of our second album. I also have to add that usually summers have always been totally unproductive for this band in the past, but now luckily things have changed.”
So, the current line-up of DEVOTION consists of David García (drums), Nosfer and Jesús Francés (both on guitars), Txito (bass) and yourself on vocals. Do you think you guys will work together for a longer period now?
“Well, we’re quite comfortable with each other and we’re having lots of fun practising the classical stuff and writing new songs. We get along really well and there’s no bad blood at all, at least not yet ; – ). We know nothing about the future with the pandemic issues we have to endure, but I hope this line-up will last for long, hopefully for good, but that’s just a wish, nothing I can tell for real.”
The new album, “The Harrowing”, was released in late January 2021 via Memento Mori on CD… Did you sign the contract with them prior to the recordings or was the album already finished and then you shopped it around in order to find a label that was interested in releasing it?
“The contract reached us almost one year before we started recording anything of this second album. It seems Raúl from Memento Mori got interested in us after listening to our debut and offered us a deal. The album was meant for April 2020 but it finally came out in January 2021 due to pandemic issues we all know about. We didn’t have the necessity to shop around for the release and let me tell you, we’re more than happy with our label for the great promotion we got. We had never had so much attention from the media as we’ve got now.”
For the cover artwork you once again worked with an Indonesian guy, Diko Nursyahra… Why didn’t you go with Agus Wibowo again and what made you work with Diko?
“There was some controversy with Agus’ cover art, because it seems someone in the band considered it visually cheap and some people close to the band said it looked too childish compared to the musical content. But that wasn’t the reason for not going on with Agus. Another guy called Diko contacted me, probably out of Agus’s friendship on Facebook and showed me his stuff. One day he just posted the drawing of the Reaper with her Demon pets and I just fell in love with it. I showed it to the rest of the band and to Raúl from the label and we all agreed that it was the right cover for our sophomore record. And there you are. We’re so thrilled by the cover and the good vibes we’ve received once it was released. It was the right choice for sure.”
Musically DEVOTION is definitely rooted in heavy Death Metal, but your unusual use of keyboards also points to KING DIAMOND, NOCTURNUS and the likes, acts that are using that instrument way more to create horror soundtrack-like effects rather than pushing the music into a more melodic direction… Do you agree to that? Where do you draw your main influences from when it comes to this aspect?
“Personally I prefer the horror type soundtrack effects and keyboards to the melodic ones. The intro, outro and interludes come from my love for dark ambient and terrifying tunes. Believe me when I tell you, we don’t add keys for the sake of having other bands in mind. It’s just something our music demands and we’ve always felt like using them to make our stuff richer and creepier. The influences musical wise could come more from CELTIC FROST and acts like ATRIUM CARCERI and the likes.”
Ok Vicent, that’s about it for now. Thanks a lot for taking the time. If we should have forgotten anything important, you’re welcome to mention it now. Otherwise you can end this interview the way you like. All the best to you and the rest of the guys.
“We’d like the Death Metal die hard fans never to give up supporting the bands which populate this sick and big underground scene. We need everyone of you to reach every corner of this doomed world. We’ll keep adding some evil stuff to darken your minds with our poison. We’re just but an unended metamorphosis, condemned to extinction. Let’s revel in death. Horns up mates!!”
Live pics: Marisol Huertas Bailen
Interview: Frank Stöver