The technically robust The Invasion EP’s simplicity is what’s most brilliant about it.
Devoid fall in the dead-zone between death and thrash metal. Their sound has a tendency to fork into groove metal territory, but only slightly so. Their last full length release was their 2010 debut, A God’s Lie. Released on Demonstealer Records, A God’s Lie was 37 minutes of borderline thrash metal revivalism, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it old-school. There were sections that bordered on hummability, but they weren’t prevalent enough to warrant the ‘melodic’ tag. There were sections during which the tempo was halved, but even these were well-paced and well-placed.
The least ‘old-school’ thing about A God’s Lie was the production. On the album, Devoid sounded, for lack of a better word, modern. That isn’t characteristically a bad thing. I doubt Devoid ever had intentions of old-school thrash purism, and the polish of the production is what anchored the band to their chronological context. Unfortunately, the sound was very different when I saw them live when they were touring in support of the album. It was September 2010. They were playing at this club in Koregaon Park, Pune. This club is a cock lane for what a friend rightly calls ‘anti-inventive dance striplings’. The mixer had been left open and unattended. It was incessantly being fucked with. Needless to say, the sound was very different from what it was on the record.
Three years later, I pop in the band’s second release, The Invasion EP, and hit play. After the obligatory intro track ‘Prelude’, after the band kick into a higher gear, the first thing that stands out is vocalist Arun Iyer’s diction. Despite how harsh his vocals are, his syllables are, for the most part, discernible. There’s clarity in the lyrics that gives the songs more sense. This clarity emphasizes the plot that’s unfolding as the EP progresses. Yes, it’s a concept piece. But unlike most metal concept albums in which plots split, divide, collide and intertwine over multiple discs, Devoid float a plot over four songs and an intro. They manage to pull it off by keeping things simple.
My interpretation of the plot goes something like this – alien forces gather around earth (‘Prelude’), alien forces let themselves loose on earth (‘The Invasion’), they almost succeed in crippling the whole planet (‘Pandemonium Is Now’), after which the representatives of earth decide to h-bomb the shit outta them (‘Brahma Weapon’), after which the surviving humans begin rebuilding their society under a new world order (‘The Grand Design’). Though this might not be the actual plot, the point remains that the band have provided a conduit for one. They have provided space for you to come up with your own that can be executed over five rapid-fire movements. Its very simplicity and openness to interpretation is what’s most brilliant about it.
Jump back to the music; the first thing I noticed is that the production is a step down in polish from A God’s Lie. It’s so stripped down, it’s primal. Its bare-as-fuck character might seem lazy at first, but gives the album a blunt edge that serves to heighten the sense of aggression. The drums have a tendency of sometimes sounding oddly manufactured. The drum sound reminds me of software plug-ins. The drumming itself, however, is quite inventive. I spotted a few very well-placed fills.
The songwriting is on a definite upswing, with the band varying tempos to dramatic effect instead of barging through the 22-minute length. I actually dig how the music keeps pace with the narrative. Devoid’s music has unmistakable elements of NWOAHM (new wave of American heavy metal) that restrict them from meeting all purist criteria. But it’s a concoction of these new elements and more faithful old-school thrash sensibilities that best signifies the band’s sound, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Invasion EP is a technically robust release. It can be perfectly enjoyed without any context in mind. It can stand its own ground, devoid of superficial strengths such as plot. But to me, the plot is the most enjoyable aspect about listening to the EP. It’s a pocket-sized version of the same kick I get listening to ISIS’s Oceanic or Mastodon’s Blood Mountain in terms of the existence of a narrative, no matter how lose. Soon, Devoid will leave the EP behind and move on to bigger projects. And years later, we will look upon it as one of the more interesting releases in their discography.