The Amazing Devil – The Horror and the Wild
Whenever I dive into the ocean of music that floods my inbox, I try to go in with a clear mind. Just press play on the next track, without expectations or context, and only dig deeper if the music grabs me. It’s impossible to do this however when actively searching for new music. By its very definition you need to have at least some idea of what it is that you’re looking for. You always end up pressing play with some preconceived notion of what to expect already formed in your head. Maybe that’s from names, titles or artwork, maybe it’s from the crossover their fanbase has with other artists, or perhaps even from reviews and recommendations on sites such as this. You paint a picture, dream up a wish list, and hope that it lines up with reality.
In discovering The Amazing Devil through Joey Batey’s appearance as the hilarious and lovable bard Jaskier in Netflix’s dark fantasy series The Witcher, I formed an ambitious and somewhat contradictory wish list. Consciously or not I had my fingers crossed for a record that was equal parts playful and dramatic, something with a traditional folk feel but with a dash of modern dry wit to boot. I thought I was being far too greedy, but The Horror and the Wild is all that and more. It’s a multifaceted folk record that fuses old and new. A reflection on love and heartbreak that deals not only with roses, but with the tangled weave of thorns that surrounds them.
Opening track ‘The Rockrose and the Thistle’ kicks off the record with a spoken word section reminiscent of an old nursery rhyme with a dark origin long forgotten. Softly spoken over the sound of howling wind, it provides a truly foreboding and dramatic introduction. ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ and ‘Marbles’ boast some gorgeous harmonies and uplifting strings, the stripped-back balladry of ‘Fair’ is so tender and touching, while ‘That Unwanted Animal’ roars into life with an eruption of anthemic drums. On the latter track Madeline Hyland’s vocals are simply bewitching, and they are perhaps even more so on the album’s centrepiece ‘Farewell Wanderlust’. It grows from a gothic piano ballad, to a menacing tango of a duet, and finally into something more closely resembling a Bond theme by its climax. Throughout the record Joey and Madeline prove to be a match made in heaven. I love their counterpointed vocals on closing track ‘Battle Cries’, and it’s here that they join together to create one of the most triumphant choruses I’ve heard in ages. Its melody has been dancing around my head for days on end.
There are dark and menacing moments akin to something you’d hear chanted in an eerie woodland clearing. There are moments that feel like bawdy and boisterous crowd-pleasers blaring out into the street from some homely tavern. And there are moments of quiet intimacy, like a candle flickering in the chamber of a lovesick poet while the sweet embrace of sleep escapes him. The songs found here even manage to be just as diverse lyrically as they are musically. Somehow shifting seamlessly between rich imagery worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet, and droll quips about binge-watching box sets and backhanded comments from your mother that could have been lifted from a sitcom. This bizarre hodge-podge of different styles and sensibilities could have fallen apart in a thousand different ways were it to be attempted by anyone else, but in the capable hands of Joey Batey and Madeline Hyland we’re blessed to have every piece fall perfectly into place.