The Amazing Devil – Ruin
That niggling anxious voice in the back of your head just thrives on sowing doubt on everything in life. It puts your flaws under the microscope to blow them out of all proportion, and turns a blind eye to the light at the end of the tunnel when life gets dark. It compels you to throw up walls, bury your true self deep down, push away those you care about, and can’t resist trying to convince you that every ray of joy in life will never be as good as you envisioned. After falling hard for The Horror and the Wild last year, an album that has quickly become one of my absolute favourite discoveries since starting Belwood Music, the news of a new album from The Amazing Devil should have been met with excitement and delight. Instead that anxious voice piped up to say that it couldn’t possibly live up to its predecessor; that my anticipation was misplaced and I’d only be disappointed. As convincing as its arguments sound at the time, that voice is usually lying, and this is no exception.
Right from first pressing play, the dazzling duo of Joey Batey and Madeleine Hyland put all those doubts to rest. ‘Secret Worlds’ throws you right in at the deep end; full of fire and menace, a passionate roar against a backdrop of emphatic drums. Its glorious anthemic chorus feeling damn near irresistible as it belts out such bewitching imagery as “leaves like broken shards of stained glass windows“. Shifting seamlessly into ‘The Calling’, this invigorating slow-burner culminates in a grand theatrical choir as Madeleine’s voice shakes the very sky like thunder. The opening of the album really indulges in the band’s primal side – dark goth eyeshadow and wild unkempt hair, arms wide and teeth bared, snarling a challenge back at the world. That same passion pops up again on the record, most notably the bluesy breakdown on ‘The Old Witch Sleep and the Good Man Grace’ wherein Joey throws down the gauntlet to his own inner demons, but in truth where Ruin excels best is in its moments of candour and vulnerability. The moments where you sit and wipe away the make-up and are left all alone with that same disparaging inner monologue.
Album highlight ‘Drinking Song for the Socially Anxious’ is one of the most relatable tracks I’ve heard in a good long while. Alongside endearing sparks of their unique wit, about dressing up the cat and showing it memes, it paints a vivid portrait of an introvert’s uphill battle to socialise (“cos though my jokes are my armour and my kindness is my sword, the party swirls around me in a dress I can’t afford“). The feeling of wearing a mask and playing a character as you frantically go through all the mindless small talk in your head beforehand (“arriving at the door, I hope to God I’m not the first, my heart is tearing pages from the funny story I rehearsed“). Just an overwhelmed impostor looking for the first socially acceptable opportunity to bolt. But the song flips on its head with one chance encounter – a newly formed connection offering sanctuary, drowning out the anxious whispers, letting you drop the façade and finally be yourself with someone else who understands.
It’s indicative of what feels like the album’s central theme: that we’re all fucked up people in a fucked up world, but sometimes all it takes is one deep connection to make it all worthwhile. That perhaps all we need is one tether strong enough to ground us and keep the anxious voice at bay. On ‘Chords’ it takes the form of parents bidding farewell as their children fly the nest, and knowing that, in spite of the fall-outs and the distance, there’ll always be a home waiting with unconditional love. In the tender piano balladry of the title track we see that no matter how broken you feel, no matter how much you may see your love as a poison chalice, the most precious connections are worth saving given enough patience and understanding. The Amazing Devil continue their tradition of ending on a high with the spellbinding ‘Inkpot Gods’, as we see the band’s fire return for a tale of “us against the world” love, one so strong as to defy the gods themselves. The haunting final refrain of “If I don’t make it back from where I’ve gone, Just know I’ve loved you all along” sends shivers down your neck and lingers in your memory long after it fades out.
That damn voice still tries to get a few words in; about how Ruin isn’t quite as varied as its predecessor, or how the lyrics are a little more abstruse and the meanings a little harder to discern on tracks like ‘Blossoms’. But as we’ve heard, no matter how broken, bizarre or frustrating the people we love most can be at times, it’s a trivial price to pay for such a profound connection. When it comes to this year’s releases, you’ll struggle to find a record that resonates and connects as deeply as this.