It has been a long time since I’ve heard anything by this rather ancient Greek metal outfit, their latest release already dating back to the year 2011. I must admit that I had stumbled over information about this EP just by accident, as their evolution since their later demo days (Thy Blackest Love) to their third album Running Sore had not exactly met my own expectations. The growth of Deviser into a more symphonic, synth- and less guitar-driven entity saw me leaving the premises prematurely.
Things seem a little different on Howling Flames, released about a year ago, on October 10th, 2017. Almost from the start, there’s heavy rhythm guitar riffs and a simple, yet effective lead guitar coming in and the feel and style of the Hellenic region is felt immediately. Symphonic elements are not killed off, but don’t take the lead position either, which is something I’m very fond of.„Black Mass“ is mostly built upon a foundation of drums & guitars, with synth and effects added and NOT the other way round. The delivery and accent of guitarist/singer Matt Hnaras is very familiar – a direct connection to many of their homeland companions is not to be negated – but a little lacking in terms of variation, force and recognition value. I’m still not sure whether there’s any actual bass-playing to be found on this EP, but sadly that’s a common problem in modern metal production. Also, while there are many elements in the right place, the songwriting feels a little uninspired, which can be felt in sections switching between mid-paced and blastbeats too abruptly and therefore feeling a little disjointed. The main guitar riff is chugging along the same pattern repeatedly and is in dire need of more variation throughout the song.
Thankfully, they do fix many of these problems on track two,“Where Evil Dwells”. Matt’s vocals (if it’s actually him alone or another band member doing these I do not know, sorry!) frequently thrust into a higher, more black metal-ish rasp, which adds a previously unheard, but welcome bite to them. The flow on this track is a lot better than on the first one, with church bells, acoustic guitars and chorals shifting in and out of the sonic picture with a few more second-wave Norwegian black metal riffs interspersed between it all. They break up the pace and add a decent throwback to the scene’s less-distinctive, earlier days. Nearing the end of “Where Evil Dwells”, we’re being almost overwhelmed by the best part of the EP: an excellent, memorable and highly melodic guitar solo peppered on top of a scale-ascending, rhythmic guitar riff that leads into a fanfare fade-out section with the EP’s strongest symphonic and acoustic moments, all appearing for a short time only, as if each member of the cast was taking his or her hat off to the audience for the send-off.
So yeah, Howling Flames is a promising addition to Deviser‘s catalog after a long absence from the scene. Seeing that it’s only two songs released more than a year ago, one cannot be sure if or how they’ll present new material, let alone a full-length in the future. But at least an expression of interest has been rekindled within this reviewer here.