When listening to Devil to Pay’s sixth full-length album, one gets the sense that the Indianapolis group has put some extra emphasis on the ‘doom’ part of their stoner doom sound. Songs like “The Cautionary Tale of Yen Sid” and “Light Sentence” match laid-back tempos with somber guitar melodies and a forebodingly hazy atmosphere. There’s no interest in diving into Apostle of Solitude levels of despair, but the band has never sounded this consistently dark.
Beyond that, the band’s songwriting remains based on hard-hitting yet free-flowing grooves, but the method behind these tracks feels considerably altered. The majority of songs keep to a mid-tempo trudge with the very occasional tempo shift or light-hearted instrumental segment. Riffs on songs like “The Devil’s Barking Up Your Tree” and “Anti-Gravity” thrive on quirky key choices and unorthodox rhythms in lieu of Devil to Pay’s more vocally oriented catchiness. It never reaches any sort of avant-garde weirdness, but there’s a certain sense of tension on songs like “The Pendulum.”
It would all fall flat on its face if not for the rock-solid musicianship on display. The rawer production of 2016’s A Bend Through Space and Time is back again, giving the gravelly yet melodic vocals some extra grit. There’s also some great symbiosis between the drums and guitars as the former forge a lot of the more unconventional rhythms while the latter grinds them through a tight, weighty filter. No matter how differently things sound, the band members are still keeping to their swaggering hard rock core.
With Devil to Pay being the sort of band that has stuck to their guns since their 2002 formation, it’s great to see their sixth album offer some tweaks to the formula. The songs on here are some of the most abrasive they’ve ever put together, but the way they’re delivered gels with their signature quirks as musicians. It doesn’t hit quite as high for me as some of its predecessors, but it’s got the makings of a strong grower. It took a couple extra listens for me to get a feel for it, but Devil to Pay remains a driving force in Indiana hard rock.
“The Devil’s Barking Up Your Tree”
“The Cautionary Tale of Yen Sid”
“Get on Down”