There is an instant accessibility to Devil Sold His Soul’s fourth full-length, which separates it from their back-catalogue. Although remaining in the art-metal mould that the southerners forged on 2005’s ‘Darkness Prevails’, the album structure on ‘Empire of Light’ allows for a more direct satisfaction, which largely stems from the shorter and sharper song structure.
Gone are the continuous onslaughts of seven minute epics, now replaced by succinct efforts pushing the five minute mark. It isn’t just a question of length, but also the way the tracks are formed – the eleven here follow more conventional structure and tone, opting either for heavier metal breaks or down-tempo atmospherics. Whereas the band have previously amalgamated these styles into lengthy compositions, the tracks on ‘Empire of Light’ generally stick with the chosen style and tempo throughout. The album retains its diversity by regularly alternating between these right up until the brutally beautiful closer of ‘End of Days’.
The main disparity between this and prior records is the more focused approach. Even if the songs are shorter, they pack a similar punch. ‘Empire Of Light’ is an equally explosive record as those before it, and where the band push the vocals to the forefront in place of the commanding instrumentals (such as on lead single ‘A New Legacy’ and ‘It Rains Down’) the power of the foreboding atmosphere remains paramount.
On tracks like ‘The Waves and the Seas’, Ed Gibbs moves between clean and screamed vocals effortlessly to compliment the ominous instrumentation, which lies in contrast to tracks like ‘VIII’ that sacrifice this elegance for more instant momentum. Through this juxtaposition the band have created their own opportunity to experiment with both musical styles and Gibbs’ vocal capacity, and although the album contains a considerably higher number of down-tempo tracks, the overall experience remains constant.
The subtle changes in style from the band’s previous body of work are apparent throughout the record, but there is little doubt at any point that this is Devil Sold His Soul at full tilt. The increase in atmospheric soundscapes serve to enhance the overall experience without stepping too far out of the band’s norm, and whether Devil Sold His Soul set out to create a slightly more accessible record is largely redundant – ‘Empire of Light’ shows no signs of threatening the band’s stranglehold on UK post-metal.