Album review: DEVILFIRE – Dark Manoeuvres

DEVILFIRE - Dark Manoeuvres

Escape The Fire Records [Release date 07.10.07]

What the fudge is in the water in Birmingham? Could it really still be that yearning to escape working class, chained-to-the-factory drudgery? Seemingly Britain’s hard-rock Austin, Texas equivalent, Brum has produced some of the world’s finest rocking music over the last fifty years and, since it is apparently somewhat unique in being a major city with no rivers running through it, it must be the grit and grime of the streets and its undeniable history of producing fine rock acts.

Where Ozzy and Priest were once born (found?) and raised (dragged up?), enter Devilfire with their debut offering, Dark Manoeuvres. As band leader Alex Cooper fesses up, this album has been a labour of love, re-written and re-worked a few times and these lads have produced a very worthy collection of tunes in this virgin offering.

Straddled somewhere between Magnum’s melodic rock sensitivities and the darker, dirtier band which Europe (thankfully) became, Dark Manoeuvres is the product of hard touring, hard knocks and hard life lessons (as well as hard partying) and is laudable because of its honesty and the obvious endeavour and sweat which went into conception.

As co-producer Romesh Dodangoda (Motorhead, Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine), and obviously a man of few understated words, said “the songs on this record are just so good”….and they are good….not great but you can tell – those great songs are coming…..This genre is not exactly untrodden and Devilfire aren’t re-inventing the wheel here but you can tell they know their way around the sciences of high octane riffology and big vocal choruses. And they have a drummer called Lars – just sayin’…

Yeah, there’s a bit of Thunder, there’s a bit of Jepson and the Angels but again, this genre has been ridden hard over the years. Dark Manoeuvres is like watching the England U19s – you raise your eyes in appreciation and think “jeez, nurture this lot and keep them together and their future looks bright indeed”.

Go-to tracks – the very cool “She’s Always On The Run” – a fun and obvious, but actually very nailed-on Bond theme idea; “(In And Out Of Love) All Of The Time” – smoldering and classy, a real beauty, this one; “Tear Me Apart” – getcha Zippos out; “She’s Like Fire” is a proper rock and romp about the lass that got away; “(You Gotta) Revolution” is that obligatory, middle-finger-to-world-politics and brims with anger and pissed-off purpose and one of my personal favourites, “Lay It On The Line” (but then I’m a sucker for a descending riff). Also, get into “Kill Your Love” – for a moment there, I was back in my bedroom, in front of the mirror with my tennis racquet…brilliant.

The PR guff says “it’s hard to believe this is a debut and not a third or fourth offering” and that has a big ole diamond ring of truth to it – if Dark Manoeuvres is the first pass, albeit four years in the making, there’s enough quality here to suggest that Devilfire has arrived with a belting debut and will be putting the Brummy boot in for years to come. ****

Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw

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