DEVILOOF announced the release of their new EP “DAMNED” last year already, but this time it wasn’t “just” a new release, “DAMNED” would also mark the major debut for the group through Tokuma Japan Communications.
The original release date was planned for March 1, but ended up being postponed to April 19 due to persistent throat- and vocal discomfort from vocalist 佳祐 (Keisuke). This didn’t stop the group from releasing a small preview of what was to come with the music video for “Damn” on February 10, effectively playing their opening card without showing their full hand at this time.
The EP has two different versions, namely a “first edition” which includes a DVD with documentary footage of their 2022 tour and the music videos and off-shots for “Damn” and “False Self”. The “regular” edition is limited to a CD containing only the 5 tracks of the EP.
Additionally a third “special” version was available for pre-order through the website of Tokuma Japan Communications, containing the first edition of the release as well as a long-sleeve T-shirt. Since this version was made-to-order there is no way for you to get your hands on this version first hand anymore, though.
For this review we’ll be limiting ourselves to the regular edition of the release (including the two music videos), since we believe this version has the most interesting material for us to talk about without getting too far off-topic.
Before we start, we do want to present you with one question: “Is there any hope for the DAMNED?”
“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you”
The EP starts off with “Damn”, for which the music video was already released on their YouTube channel on February 10 of this year as a preview for what was to come. “Damn” was both written and composed by 佳祐 (Keisuke), and the “story” of the music video also comes from his hand. This gives the song the familiar style and vibe we’re used to hearing from DEVILOOF, and the lyrics are fully in English – something that makes the message of herd mentality, following your own instincts and taking control of your own actions in this cold world a little easier to understand for foreign listeners.
The stage for the music video is simple and quite grunge-y due to the band performing in a “cage” made out of fencing as well as an open space lined with thick, iron wire. The dark themes of corruption and the world turning a blind eye is going to be a common theme throughout this entire EP, which the music video for “Damn” already underlines quite well visually speaking.
“The Blackened Sun” was both written and composed by 太輝 (Daiki), and the lyrics are again delivered in English. Much like “Damn” before it, “The Blackened Sun” embodies the familiar DEVILOOF style we’ve seen throughout the years, be it not for the delivery of the vocals themselves. If you hadn’t told us this was a DEVILOOF song we’d have said that it sounds suspiciously like DEVILOOF, except for the vocals. If this style was chosen deliberately or is a result of 佳祐 (Keisuke)’s throat issues is something we can only guess, but we feel like it isn’t adding anything positive to the composition.
The themes of “individuality”, “having an opinion of your own” and “herd mentality” also return in the second track of the EP, with lyrics like “Deprived of their own knowledge, people forgot how to judge right from wrong” and “Stop dragging others into your own twisted truths” are both taken from the same verse of the song, but are clear references to the events we see covered on the news every day.
Completing the three-in-a-row when it comes to the lyrics fully being in English is “Afterlife”, a collaboration between 太輝 (Daiki) and Ray. The themes of “corruption” and “punishment” take the center stage with these lyrics, while the theme of “herd mentality” still shines through in the back. While the lyrics are delivered in a more simple format than “Damn” or “The Blackened Sun” have done, the message is quite clear: the world is still burning around us, and punishment for one’s actions is not always delivered in the right way.
The second last song of the album is reserved for “Terpsichore”, which at first listen sounds like a song that is simply missing it’s vocals. Were they scrapped due to time constraints, perhaps?
Well, “Terpsichore” is actually one of the nine muses in Greek religion. Specifically the one for lyric poetry and dancing. In some versions she’s also the muse for flute playing, and all three of these elements are not something you’d normally associate with DEVILOOF and their works, are they? If you listen closely you’ll actually hear the guitars of Ray and 愛朔 (Aisaku) resemble the sound of flutes, despite a guitar and a flute being two completely different instruments producing a different kind of sound.
Does it fit on the album? Honestly, no. Is it a fun change of pace despite it’s initial feeling like this track was supposed to have vocals, yet doesn’t? We’d say yes, even though we would have rather seen it in a different context than as part of “DAMNED”.
Closing off the EP is “False Self”, which is the only song that also makes use of Japanese next to the English lyrics. Again fully written and composed by 佳祐 (Keisuke), “False Self” actually makes use of two vocals, the other being provided by guitarist Ray.
The final song of the EP is also the song that slightly plays into the “lyric poetry” that was somewhat hinted to in the title of the previous track, since Japanese is still the members’ native language after all, allowing more creative freedom and play on words. If only slightly, it’s still DEVILOOF we’re talking about here, not something like Versailles – just to name a project that focuses on lyric poetry a lot more.
The second music video is – as you already knew – reserved for this track, and while initially looking like a “Dusky-Vision” 2.0, this is where you are slightly wrong. The themes for both songs are vastly different: “Dusky-Vision” has a combination of desperate and hopeful lyrics, where “False Self” plays perfectly into the themes from “Damn”, “The Blackened Sun” and “Afterlife” with it’s sense of individuality and breaking free from the herd mentality. Visually speaking it’s a largely toned down version of DEVILOOF’s looks, and pretty much the opposite of “Damn”. (Again, yes, much like “Dusky-Vision”. So you’re right about the visual and style similarity, but the difference is in the lyrics!)
Before we started the review we asked the question: “Is there hope for the DAMNED?”, and we’re now ready to answer that question with a resounding “YES!”.
While at first glance “DAMNED” might not seem like a “good” DEVILOOF release like “Devil’s Proof” or “鬼” (Oni) or even “DYSTOPIA” were before it, there is a lot more to “DAMNED” than you think.
The message is primarily in the lyrics, which might not always be delivered in the most efficient way (especially in “The Blackened Sun”, where it almost sounds like 佳祐 (Keisuke) isn’t the one singing) and the inclusion of “Terpsichore” seems a bit odd in both the definition of the title and the fact that it sounds like vocals were originally planned for this track – both elements really causing the “break” point for most listeners. In fact, when we had our first listen we also didn’t pick up on any of the underlaying themes. Does it have to do with 佳祐 (Keisuke)’s accent when he sings in English? Maybe. We aren’t sure either.
If you have listened to “DAMNED” already and pushed it to the side with the conclusion of it being a full on miss for DEVILOOF as their major debut release: we do want to encourage you to give it another chance after reading today’s review for it.
Because as we said, there are a lot of elements that you might have missed, and as a group DEVILOOF is growing and evolving with each release. Is “DAMNED” the right direction for them? We are tempted to say “no”, but that is largely due to the vocal performance throughout the album. Were there time constraints that caused these “issues”? We have no idea, but we do hope that if you have heard the EP already and tossed it aside, we at least motivated you to give it another listen to see if you hear anything new!
02. The Blackened Sun
05. False Self
01. DYSTOPIA RETURNS OFF SHOT MOVIE
02. Damn (MV)
03. Damn (Making video)
04. False Self (MV)
05. False Self (Making video)
02. The Blackened Sun
05. False Self
雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind Arlequin Magazine & Photography.
She started in 2009 as a photographer with Arlequin Photography, but due to a growing interest in journalism, translation and behind-the-scenes work in general the project burst out of it's seams in 2021 and expanded through the addition of Arlequin Magazine.
雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker and maintains both the English and Dutch sections of both Magazine and Photography with original content, translations and photography as well as all the behind-the-scenes work for both websites.
She speaks Dutch, English, Japanese and German.