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The Devil & The Universe - Benedicere (2015) - Review

Band: The Devil & The Universe
Album title: Benedicere
Release date: 8 December 2015
Label: Rustblade Records

01. Ascension
02. Dei Genetrix
03. Immaculata
04. Hail! Mary
05. Ora Pro Nobis Deum
06. Elousa
07. Mater Dolorosa
08. Nikopoia
09. Road To Damascus

"Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God."

The Devil & The Universe is back with a new opus and all lovers of occult cinematic darkness are already licking their fingers. This Austrian project, which started their path as a duo in 2013 and soon after the formation released their debut EP Evoking Eternity, gained the attention from fans of obscure sounds. Still, nobody really knew in which direction this project will really go, but as soon as they've released their debut album Imprint Daath and last year the sophomore one Haunted Summer, the things were pretty much clear, The Devil & The Universe, who in the meantime become a trio, are now without any doubt one of the most original and noteworthy acts in the whole (you name it) wave occult scene. There's no need to mention anymore who are the main actors behind the goat masks, but if I say that Ashley Dayour, better known from gothic rockers Whispers In The Shadow and Near Earth Orbit, is the main man here then the things are more or less pretty clear. The other two members are Stefan Elsbacher (Black Manna) and David Pfister (Neigungsgruppe, Sex, Gewalt und gute Laune).

Benedicere in a similar way like its predecessor, Haunted Summer, which invited us to spend an idyllic summer of 1816 in Lord Byron's Geneva's lakeside mansion: the famed Villa Diodati, with two women in their teens and three men in their twenties..., goes deep into Christian mysticism and all the mysteries surrounding the Virgin Mary. To give us a proper picture and essence of the musical content the band travelled to the most visited pilgrimage site in the world- Lourdes, France, as well as to the Spanish Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey and the Vatican in Rome. Now, what we are left with is a twisted, yet meticulous sonic extravaganza that hooks the listener with its diabolic audio/visual character and takes him into the world of occult and from this aspects delivers an audible take on on probably one of the most delicate Christian mysteries. The Devil & The Universe have evolved into spheres where only absolute darkness is the limit and their musical output is hard to describe, they call it goat wave, but in truth you'll find here dark/ritual ambient, symphonic music, psychedelia, minimal wave, cold wave, xy wave, industrial parts and yet much more, everything composed in a way that it feels just like listening to a perfect soundtrack that could fit fine to any kind of 70s occult horror movie.

Every single track on this album is connected with each other by kind of a natural pathos, nevertheless the diversity of incorporated elements and sound variations, and as soon as the first waves of the solemn symphonic opener "Ascension" start to make an impact on your senses, your mind and body could be trapped into this maelstrom of almost infernal seduction. "Ascension" in a way evokes the spirit of Lacrimosa's early albums, but in its own way, it copulates with huge doomy, almost bombastic orchestrations and sends shivers down the spine with its hypnotic vibe and those backing angelic voices give a feeling of timelessness. "Dei Genetrix" is a proper psycho/occultistic ritual, "Immaculata" is based on the hypnotic danceable synthpop/EBM beat and it becomes almost creepy with captivating melody and lush sparkling ambiances in the background, a similar vibe, but much more horrific and turbulent, with an addition of almost martial industrial sequence and gritty guitars that are imposing there in a spectacular cinematic way is "Ora Pro Nobis Deum". Those short intermezzos like are "Hail! Mary" and "Elousa" make such a great connection with the main story and adds a lot to the whole ambiental archaic bitterness that culminates in glorious "Mater Dolorosa", where strong, soul shaking percussions, obscure chants and cold keys once again create a very dense, yet original mystical sonic madness. Cold wave, dark wave,... and that typical The Devil & The Universe sense of humor is best present in "Nikopoia". The Devil & The Universe are bethroted to the occult and darkness, after all also their name derives from there, and once those esoteric, yet perverted erotic vivid images made by strong sonic waves, female speeches, whispers, chants and by the pure solemn suspenseful horrific presence in "Road To Damascus", the listener knows exactly what's all about.

Ashley, David and Stefan did one hell of the album, in my opinion their best until now. They don't take it easy on things, everything is in perfect balance, so in a way also very accessible and recommended for various types of listeners. No matter from which point you look at it, performance, production, mix, the whole concept, artwork,... everything is just right. Benedicere is an occult drama, an adventure, a refined and accurate ritualistic experience, magick and mayhem, order and chaos, mysticism, a dark cinematic murky masterpiece.

"The immaculate thing is clean. I'm the immaculate conception."

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 9/10

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