It's no exaggeration to proclaim that the recently (and cryptically) announced breakup of hard rock occultists, THE DEVIL'S BLOOD, left a massive void in this peculiar musical strain's surprising third millennium revival.After all, not only were the notoriously press shy members of this Dutch ensemble among of the style's first, noteworthy modern day champions, the musical talents they out into its service were second to none, while their strict devotion to its dark philosophical motivations pure beyond reasonable doubt. Which means their orphaned fans will now have to contend largely with pretenders, weaker imitations, or cartoonish gimmicks (see the mainstream co-opted GHOST), and if you don't realize this commercial saturation of a supposedly underground, anti-establishment aesthetic had much to do with THE DEVIL'S BLOOD career suicide, then you ain't been paying attention. Fortunately, hardly had the initial disappointment of the group's demise begun sinking in before band leader, Selim Lemouchi, proclaimed there would be one, final recorded ritual to ease the band's loyal fans into the void, in the shape of 2013's "Tabula Rasa". Unfortunately, Lemouchi, his singing sister Farida, and the rest of their musical cabal would be the first ones to admit that this final album represents an emptying of the vaults, rather than an immersive, fully realized new vision, on par with what came before. Almost half of "III: Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars", to spell out its full title, is taken up by twenty-two minutes of meandering, semi-cogent, post-psychedelic improvisation, rich in the band's trademarked anti-theology liturgy, but only momentary sparks of cohesion, crammed into "I was Promised a Hunt". And the remaining, shorter statements, likewise fail to shock and awe as completely as did earlier LPs, even while showing greater cohesion and delivering quite a few momentary thrills - e.g. the compelling Nuggets influences (so integral to the band's songwriting immediacy) heard on "The Lullaby of the Burning Boy" and "...If Not a Vessel?". But only the mesmerizing autumnal sweep of "Dance of the Elements" and positively creepifying sleep paralysis of "White Storm of Teeth" - both of them mandatory listening for true devotees - truly match THE DEVIL'S BLOOD's earlier high standards is during
The closing, instrumental title track, though seductively serpentine in oh so many ways, also suffers from the vocal absence of Farida - once known simply as F. The Mouth of Satan! - and leaves one wondering if a farewell EP, collecting "Tabula Rasa"'s strongest tunes, wouldn't have made for a better career capper for THE DEVIL'S BLOOD - much like their stupendous debut short player, "Come, Reap", launched their cult in the first place. As things stand, "Tabula Rasa" still easily blanks (pun intended) most of the occult metal competition, but we'd be insincere to call it a must-own LP for all listeners, rather than the group's loyal fans.