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Devil Doll — Dies Irae
(Hurdy Gurdy HG10, 1996, CD)

by Dan Casey, 1996-08-01:

Dies Irae Cover art

If ever there was a band that fit the "love 'em or hate 'em" mold, this is certainly it. Fans tend to be die-hards, and non-fans tend to just ignore this band. So when the fans are saying this is the best Devil Doll yet, even the non-fans should give it a listen since it could change a few minds. Although the label is certainly over-used, this music is clearly in the neo-prog arena but with a few very unique twists. Devil Doll's image has always been death, grimness, darkness, evil, and more death, therefore almost every chord on the album is a minor one (and a few diminished chords to break it up, of course). The instrumentalists do a fine job with their parts, and the violinist and guitarist turn in notable performances. Frontman Mr. Doctor (who despite vicious rumors is probably not Peter Thelen) sings with a deliberately tortured and anguished voice, but also with a very thick accent, making the lyrics often impossible to distinguish. Here's where you either jump on the Devil Doll bandwagon, or kindly disembark. If you're not in the mood for it, the vocals are almost embarrassing, and they can never be taken seriously. That's the key to enjoying this band. If you don't take it too seriously, it can be a lot of fun.

by Steve Robey, 1996-08-01:

Proceed with extreme caution. If you love symphonic progressive rock with a nasty, sinister edge, Devil Doll may be the band you've been waiting for. Fronted by the inimitable Mr. Doctor on vocals, this band continually puts out albums that sound like they were made for some spooky movie soundtrack. Dies Irae is no exception, furthering the sound displayed on the ominous Eliogabalus album from a couple of years back. If anything, this new album is even more challenging, with multi-layered operatic vocals providing additional textural variety to this terrifying tour-de-force. Consisting of eight musicians, Devil Doll boasts three keyboard players (on organ, piano, and synth, respectively) along with a violin player. These instrumentalists provide the majority of the atmosphere accompanying Mr. Doctor's doomy visions. Mr. Doctor himself often sounds like the voice of a troll trapped in a dungeon, loudly whispering his texts with a piano ostinato background. The rest of the band then usually kicks in with a devilishly playful abandon, supplying a blackly humorous counterpoint to the quiet vocal sections. The album consists of one extended piece, separated into 16 equally doomy sections. No particular segment of the piece stands out; the album is uniformly scary, dramatic, and epic-sounding. Highly recommended to those who liked their last album, or anyone to whom the above description sounds appetizing. All others should tread carefully, however. This is heavy stuff that takes no prisoners.

by Mike Ezzo, 1996-08-01:

I suppose it was inevitable that before long this band would find a concept such as this too good to pass up. Given the countless readings of this medieval concept in classical music, though, I'd say it's about due for retirement. As with their previous outings I'm left scratching my head as to how Devil Doll intends this piece to work. The music runs continuously for the duration of the album, with no separate song listings. But it is definitely delineated into distinct sections which bear little or no relation to one another. Perhaps they see it as a kind of mini-opera, or musical drama. Musically speaking the layout alternates between pretty basic heavy rock, and a more subdued, at times quite evocative, recitative. The transitions between the two are almost always abrupt and startling. Without any sort of linking material, a heavily-wrought work like this tends to crumble under its own length. Or it could be very simply one of those cases where the inner logic is revealed on the close scrutiny that only repeated listenings can provide. And for that you have to be a big fan of this kind of music. Unfortunately that task will have to be left to someone else. No antagonism intended; it's just simply not my kind of music. What they do they certainly do well. If you liked their past work, then this will probably appeal even more (It's much better. And the addition of female voice has added a much needed new dimension). But if not then I doubt you will be converted now.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 10 , 1996 releases

Related artist(s): Devil Doll

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