If you’ve never heard the otherworldly sounds of cult rockers The Devil’s Blood, have no fear (yet): Their melodies and classic style will ring familiar one way or another. The Dutch outfit, led by the brother/sister team of guitarist Selim and vocalist Farida Lemouchi, released The Thousandfold Epicentre earlier this year on Metal Blade and pushed themselves deep enough into the reaches of Satanic psychedelia to earn a slot on the Decibel tour alongside Behemoth and Watain.
Both those bands might seem more extreme when it comes to the actual music, and maybe they are, but The Devil’s Blood are second to none when it comes to the richness of their aesthetic or how the sound of the band is informed by their lyrical perspective. You’ll find they’re a different kind of heavy altogether.
What’s behind the meaning of the title “The Thousandfold Epicentre?”
The ideas The Devil’s Blood works with have always been the same. Everything we do, every song we create or every lyric that manifests itself through us is always some kind of connection to death, to chaos and to Satan. These three basic principles are really what ties The Devil’s Blood together as a unit.
The worship of these three is also what the title-track stands for and what it is supposed to arouse within the listener. Of course, there are various levels of interpretation and content possible, and I think it’s always a good thing to allow people as much room for personal interpretation as you can, so I’m always a bit cautious when it comes to the actual lyrics themselves, or titles and stuff like that, but in a very broad way, those three principalities, if you will, are the main inspiration behind The Devil’s Blood, and that has not changed and that will not change.
Do you see setting up the contrast between occult ideas and the upbeat, melodic songs as the central musical idea of the band?
Well, as far as contrasts go, being somebody who’s listened to music like Coven, Black Widow, Roky Erickson, Alice Cooper, KISS, even, to a lesser degree, I don’t really see the contrast myself. I think it’s become commonplace—especially in the metal scene—for people to immediately tie Satanic imagery and Satanic lyrics to extreme music, to death metal and to black metal and stuff like that.
Fair enough, I guess, because that’s where a lot of people come from, but let’s not forget there has been a lot of art and music created in the past which could be described as colorful or upbeat, as you just did, which in and of itself was extremely demonic and insidious. I think we more or less ascribe to a longstanding tradition in culture and music that these things are not necessarily kept apart from each other.
The other thing is that of course we are very happy to be doing this (laughs). We are very glorious about the music we make, and I think the music itself reflects that, in a way. Even though people might consider it to be upbeat, the music itself is still fraught with dissonance and with darkness. So for me, it’s not so much a contrast, but a unity.
As you say, though, the expectation is that demonic ideas and things like that come with death and black metal. I think there’s something subversive in working against that expectation.
It could be considered as such, but it was never a conscious move. If that’s what draws people in, then that’s fine. But for me, we could have very well been a death metal or a black metal band, because those both are musical extremes that, for me, have been very important as a musician and as a fan.
It’s stuff that I’ve listened to since I was very young. But also, I listened to The Doors and Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, The Byrds, The Beatles, whatever. I think when you boil it down to its core, The Devil’s Blood makes an amalgam of all these things, and not just one or the other.
With so much going on musically and in terms of influence, do you feel connected to any one genre more than another?
Not really, to be honest. For me, music goes in phases. I could be listening to old Bathory and Slayer and Venom for weeks on end and then make a shift and listen to nothing but The Beach Boys for a month. For me, music is just that. It’s music, and apart from the reasons people made it or whether or not it’s—spiritually inclined or stuff like that, which can be very important in the choices we make when it comes to listening to certain stuff and not listening to certain other stuff—I think I just pick out whatever fits my taste for the moment.
To tie myself to one genre, I think I would have to say just rock and roll in all its forms. For me, death metal and black metal are still rock and roll. It’s still the rebellious music of the youth, of a certain sense of counter-culture, a certain sense of rebellion through art, which they share.
At the same time, The Devil’s Blood has a pretty established aesthetic across the two albums and the EPs. Do you ever feel limited by that aesthetic?
Not at all. Not at all. No. Because the aesthetic is a result of our creative output and not the other way around. It could very well be that we will change in the future, that the style will diverge or evolve into different territories, and these might be expectable or not. We don’t know. We are not in charge.
Tell me about the writing process and when Farida comes into it?
The most relevant part, I guess, is it’s a frightfully boring thing (laughs). Just imagine: Usually it starts [with] concentration. With studying, with reading, with meditation, with certain magical rites involving certain occult principles I feel close to or connected to in a certain part of the year or in a certain part of my life, or, you know, just a certain part of the day. From this comes a certain inspirational flow, which I have to follow to its logical extent, and this is just usually me with an acoustic guitar and a piece of paper, humming away, and music and lyrics usually come in almost the same flow.
When this has traveled a bit, I start to make sense of what I made—because usually it’s just maybe one lyric line or a few chords tied together with maybe a chorus or a bridge or whatever or a certain melody—and from that point onward, the song starts to manifest itself. It becomes sculpted, in a way.
When all the granite is chipped away at the edges and all the excess baggage is cut off and the lyrics are done and the music is done, I contact my sister and we meet up, we discuss very intimately the details of the music, the details of the lyrics, what they mean to us—especially what they mean to her, because for me it’s very important to know that she knows what she is singing. Parts of it, parts of the understanding, she keeps for herself on her own responsibility.
She puts them inside of her and locks them away and never talks about them again, to give something completely unique to it. We record the demos in this way, and then the demos are presented to the rest of the band, and we work from there.
Is working with your sister, ever affected by a family dynamic, or does it affect your relationship as siblings?
It strengthens our relationship, if anything. Family is one thing. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. I think we all have certain elements in our family that we’d rather not think about or talk to or be around and some others that we feel more comfortable with, just basically like our friends or whatever. Our social structures.
But in our case, being forced to work together in this way has actually given us a much clearer understanding of each other as persons and individuals and creative entities. We can be completely brutally honest with each other, to the point of extreme insults (laughs) and violence and everything that comes. It’s very much a dynamic form of love/hate, that never sticks in one place for too long.
For outsiders, it can be a little bit strange to behold (laughs), because it tends to be unforgiving and at the surface, it seems to have absolutely no consideration for each other’s feelings or emotions, but because we are so close to each other and know each other so well, we don’t need to express the consideration, because we already know it’s there. For us, it works. I don’t think I would be able to do it with anyone else, basically, in this way.
Are you writing new material now?
Not at the moment. I really deliberately—more or less the same thing as after the previous record—after being so engrossed in a work of this magnitude, in my case, I fall into almost a lethargic state where creativity seems to dissipate and seems to bleed away from you. The previous time, this really upset me, and it really frustrated me to an extreme point of self-loathing and everything that comes with that, but this time around, I kind of expected it would happen and I simply allowed myself to become null and void for a while. Just empty.
Doing the promotional thing is a good way to keep my mind off it and doing a lot of concerts allows me to have my rituals and my connection to what it is we’re doing, and when the whole thing calms down a little bit, I’m pretty sure the voice will find me again and there will be more to say.
The Thousandfold Epicentre is available now via Metal Blade. The last stop of the Decibel tour is at Irving Plaza in Manhattan on May 12 and will also feature Watain, Behemoth and In Solitude. More info at thedevilsblood.com.
JJ Koczan doesn’t worship the devil. He worships Black Sabbath. firstname.lastname@example.org.