Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sarah Jezebel Deva - The Corruption Of Mercy

Sarah Jezebel Deva
The Corruption Of Mercy
Listenable Records

For many years, Sarah Jezebel Deva made her name as backing vocalist for groups such as The Covenant, Therion, Tulus, Mortiis, Angtoria and most importantly and extensively, with extreme U.K. metal act Cradle Of Filth (An association that has lasted for some sixteen years). But after spending years playing support to many acts (Both in the studio and on the live front), Deva decided to step out on her own and forge ahead with a solo career. Deva’s debut effort ‘A Sign Of Sublime’ was released in 2010 (Through Rising Records) to much hype, but was quickly dismissed as a disappointment from the press with its confused direction. Surprisingly enough, Deva herself admitted that she wasn’t pleased with ‘A Sign Of Sublime’, and was determined to ensure that her follow-up release wouldn’t be released unless she was totally satisfied with the album. So after assembling an entirely new outfit (Joining Deva are guitarists Dan Abela and Jonny Gray, Sariola bassist Ablaz and drummer Jamie Abela), the London (U.K.) based vocalist has returned with her sophomore solo effort ‘The Corruption Of Mercy’.
For the most part, ‘The Corruption Of Mercy’ is a huge step up from ‘A Sign Of Sublime’, in terms of production, consistency, song writing and overall performance. But despite the improvements, it’s clear that Deva’s second solo effort still has its issues.
The opening track ‘No Paragon Of Virtue’ starts off on the wrong foot, and immediately brings to light some of the problems that plague Deva’s musical path. The mix of electronic effects and symphonic black metal is quite well done; giving the song an overall vibe that brings to mind something Cradle Of Filth or Dimmu Borgir would conjur up. The problem is how Deva’s vocals fit into this mix. Sure, the operatic efforts that Deva delivers are O.K., but her lower register vocals just clash too much to really come across as organic, and instead feel like they’re tacked on over a backing track. In other words, while this is a good song, the vocals simply don’t gel well enough to pull it all off successfully.
The follow-up track ‘The World Won’t Hold Your Hand’, while mining a similar path of the symphonic melodic black metal terrain, seems to work on a whole different level, and showcases the strong song writing abilities within the band. The subtle choir effects and the well executed guitar solos certainly add to the quality of the song.
‘A Matter Of Convenience’ moves in a completely different direction, with a gothic rock vein taking over from the symphonic metal direction of the former tracks. And it’s a sound and style that works incredibly well. Unfortunately, it’s the only song of its kind.
Both the experimental ‘The Eyes That Lie’ and ‘Silence Please’ are primarily rooted in an operatic/orchestrated framework, with the band providing the creepy atmospherics and black metal elements to great effect, while ‘Sirens’ (Which is preceded by the short symphonic instrumental piece ‘What Lies Before You’) is a curious excursion into gothic blackened metal, which again works – if only because Deva retains vocals throughout.
Not everything works on the album though. The piano ballad ‘Pretty With Effects’ is O.K., but a little bland in terms of melody lines (Deva rarely deviates from the predictable path), while the cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ (From 1993’s ‘No Need To Argue’) is fairly faithful to the original, with no real surprises.
The final track is saved for the title track ‘The Corruption Of Mercy’, which like the opener, is virtually a mix of everything the band is capable of. But unlike the opener, the blend of styles (And not to mention vocals) seems to work well throughout the mini-epic, and closes the album on a sound note.
Deva has come a long way between releases, but still hasn’t quite settled on a sound and style that works over the course of a full-length album. Sure, you can have a lot of diversity of styles on any given album, but unless those varying styles gel, it’ll only ever sound like a confused mess. And while ‘The Corruption Of Mercy’ still sounds a little confused in places, it’s at the very least an improvement over ‘A Sign Of Sublime’.

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© Justin Donnelly