‘A Corps Interrompus’ is the second full-length album from Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) approved French rockers Devianz and it is, without a shadow of overstatement, an absolute belter. The description alone is enough to make fans of the avant-garde underground dribble in anticipation – “If At the drive in had experienced a love affair with Portishead, Devianz would have been their offspring” – and the resultant fourteen track album (thirteen if you discount the brief intro track) does not disappoint… if anything the band’s press sheet undersells them, but I digress.
Formed in 2004, in Paris, Devianz quickly released their first album, ‘una duna in mezzo all’oceano’ in 2005 which they then followed up with two EPS and hefty bouts of touring. The band’s patience and intensive on-the-road practice clearly paid off because ‘A Corps interrompus’ is a simmering album of complex strata which just seems to become more intricate the more you peel away the layers.
Opening with the brilliantly titled ‘happiness in frustration’, the briefest of acoustic introductions, it is ‘des raciness dans la chair’ that sees the band’s hardcore-styled angular riffing unleashed across a backdrop of syncopated rhythms and throbbing bass complete with a vocal performance that could happily belong to an early Radiohead album. There is no following of the rule book here, indeed like At the drive in Devianz seem to delight in pulling off the unexpected, throwing in idiosyncratic vocals over the most crushing of musical backdrops; tearing out solos of blistering intensity or simply unleashing a track in so frustrating a time signature that any attempt to head-bang will be met with furious exhortations from your chiropractor. ‘Soleil d’encre’ is no less innovative, the heavily filtered vocals standing at odds with the splenetic riffing unleashed by the band, and the whole thing sounds like an odd cross between prog rock and post hardcore, a mixture that in theory should never work (or indeed even be attempted lest the world ends) but which, in practice, sounds immense. Things take a significant change for the hypnotic ‘Sous une lune de plomb’ which mixes up live percussion, jangling guitar and bubbling electronica for an odd-ball track that could best be described as Portishead featuring members of Low playing Radiohead covers. It is quite different to almost anything out there at the moment and it is invigorating to hear a band pushing boundaries in this way and crafting music that sounds genuinely different from the pack.
After so impressive a start the band hardly squander their efforts and ‘L’instant Suspendu’ is a brief, beautiful instrumental that sounds like a cross between Sonic Youth’s ‘beauty lies in the eye’ and Mogwai before segueing into ‘L’alchimie des sense’ which highlights exactly why Devianz have become close favourites of Anathema, it’s jazzy rhythm and brilliantly constructed vocals recalling ‘judgement’, whilst the moment the guitars come crashing back in for the raging chorus is a true moment of wide-eyed, punk-infused wonder. ‘Mute echo room’ takes a step back and opens with whispering voices echoing over a gentle acoustic riff that slowly builds and twists into a track of dark intensity and wonder, the heavy guitars, when they arrive, churning out the opening riff with a distorted spite and dirty power that still has plenty of surprises buried deep in its heart to unleash over the course of the track’s six minutes. ‘Douze de mes phalanges’ has a tough job after so exciting a track and so seeks refuge in sounding utterly different – a chilled out, meditative track that recalls Bee and Flower’s psychedelic swirl.
Anathema fans will probably be most interested in ‘Ton corps n’est qu’atome’ which features Vincent Cavanagh singing in French on a track that builds to a monumental conclusion over the course of its five minutes. Certainly fans of Anathema will find it easy to pick Vincent’s voice out of the mix and his presence adds an added layer of grit to the track before Devianz unleash the blistering ‘trouble amante’ which takes everyone by surprise with its ferocity.
A moment of calm to soothe the brow after the feverish attack of the previous track, ‘lames de sel’ is a piano-led moment of pure beauty, with the guitars quietly adding a dash of atmosphere and the percussion filtered to sound like it was recorded in a bathroom. It’s another hypnotic moment from a band who have got all too good at dishing out the unpredictable, and it sticks long in the mind despite its brief (sub-three-minute) run time. Howling feedback heralds the arrival of ‘Arpeggio’, a track that successfully crosses Fugazi and Massive attack with Seafood and then ‘passion/omission’ builds to a furious assault for a song that’s sure to become a live favourite. The final track, ‘en attendant l’aubee’ is an ambitious closer with close harmonies, flailing guitars and an aching melody that proves to be the perfect closing statement for the album.
It’s hard to know exactly how to describe Devianz – like the very best bands they just… are. Without easy parallel, although reference points clearly do exist, and prone to unleash the unexpected, they draw together a wide range of indie, punk, progressive and even ambient elements to craft something that veers wildly between ambient beauty and feral punk brutality always intelligently delivered and with a brittle production that’s just on the right side of dirty without being weak. If you have eclectic tastes and an interest in bands with grand ambitions then Devianz are an act you need to check out.