Hypertension Music [Release Date: 10.10.14]
‘Devils Hands’ is a successful lo-fi, ‘live in the studio’ attempt to capture an essential bluesy feel and soulful vibe. The album comprises 11 impressive tracks steeped in a retro feel, but shot through with originality.
The album is a notable step-up from their last release ‘Wait Til Morning’, which I described as, ‘a work in progress’. That was then and this is now, as ‘Devils Hands’ is the finished product. Where the band previously struggled with anything beyond mid-paced grooves, this album has much better songs with an intuitive production and a consistently excellent performance by vocalist Kasper Osman.
The emphasis is focused squarely on Kasper’s emotive phrasing and the band’s intricate interplay which gives the lyrics their maximum impact and meaning.
This is roots music that draws from a familiar blues source to tap into the collective consciousness and searches for universal experiences and feelings, while the band adds original compositions, deft arrangements and inspired playing.
‘Devils Hands’ draws you in on different levels, from Kasper’s expansive phrasing and keyboard player Lars Emil Riis Madsen’s subtle fills and solos, to the band’s collective ability to slip into a groove, explore cool dynamics and add rhythmic colour.
All these elements combine brilliantly on tightly wrapped ‘Indian Woman’, which is taken up another level by Kristian Hoffman’s stellar wah wah driven solo.
And while songs are the primary focus of the album, it’s the band’s ability to get inside the lyrics and explore a variety of moods, feels and grooves that makes this a special album. It’s all glued together by a combination of sparkling interplay anchored by the peerless rhythm section of bassist Kristian Bast and Morten Haesum on drums, who both know the value of space.
The duo hangs back when required and conversely steps things to provide a percussive support to voice and dobro. It’s all there on the gloriously ragged ‘One True Love’, which contrary to first impressions, owes its magical presence to the band’s spontaneous approach and Kasper’s stunning white boy soul singing, as he lays his emotions on the line.
The opening ‘Come On Brother’ is very much a barometer of what to expect of an album that starts introspectively and sparks to add lyrical emphasis.
‘Man Fire Soul’ is an example of this, as a stop-time riff is topped by Kasper’s soulful vocal, on a piece full of space, dynamics and Kristian Hoffman’s slashed guitar solo.
‘Howl Away’ on the other hand, is a stripped down, dobro inflected blues with double tracked voices and gospel edges on a tale of infidelity, while the slow drifting blues of ‘Fly On Baby’ cleverly uses a combination of finger clicks and Peter Green style guitar to give it maximum impact.
‘Man Child’ evolves from a moving vocal intro into a sub-reggae percussive groove with slide guitar shapes. Then there’s the very catchy ‘Naja’, complete with exhalatory sounds over an electric piano-led groove of real finesse.
Given the recent impressive releases by fellow Danish band Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado and Swedish blues rockers Blues Pills, something seems to be stirring in Scandinavia.
‘Devils Hands’ has a weighty ethnic presence that is framed by historical context. It’s full of substance, oozes soul, is essentially routed in the blues and is unreservedly recommended. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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