Devil Master first appeared on the scene two years and four days ago with a four song self-titled demo tape. Grim Winds put out 100 copies of the tape. I own one of them and you can find a review of Devil Master in the Decibel cassettes-only column Through A Speaker Rumbly in (probably) the December 2016 issue, #156. A review heralding Devil Master a demo “not to be missed.”
From the opening riff in “The Devil Master (Devil is Your Master)” all the way to the reckless guitar solo in the Mercyful Fate covering Wipers spiritual oddity that is “Sex with a Succubus,” the binding magic of Devil Master has proven to endure long after the initial shock of its brilliance.
Last year, around this same exact time, these dark Philadelphian souls released their follow up tape, Inhabit the Corpse. Four more songs of first wave black metal stalking death rock; more chorus-drenched Nordic surf, more Satanic barks into cobwebs, more undead leather backbeat lunacy. But this time, tighter, more focused, and—best of all—darker.
This Friday, Relapse will reissue both tapes remastered on CD, digital, and vinyl formats. The compilation is called Manifestations and features all eight songs Devil Master have released so far. On the event of this special day, Halloween, and with only two days before the compilation’s release, we reached out and made contact with Francis Kano, Devil Master’s lead guitarist, to learn more about his warped sorcery under the name Devil Master.
So, how did Devil Master come together in the first place? Were any of you in other bands together?
Devil Master banded together in late 2015, founded by rhythm guitarist John Hades after years of us discussing our love for true evil old Japanese hardcore punk. Cassidy (bass) and I have played in Cape of Bats for 10 years now since we were 15. That is just one among countless projects she has been involved with, the other most notable being Blank Spell, S-21 and Low Charge, the latter including Max (keyboards) who in turn was involved in other projects with Zach (drums). John and Max (vocals) also had various projects together, so to say we have always been busily intertwined is an understatement.
Your music reminds me of, like, Morbid (Swe) mixed with like some Japanese hardcore, but the guitar tone is like goth post-punk. How did you concoct such a unique sound in an era where there is practically no originality left?
The Morbid reference is welcome. The whole mythos of Dead is one that inspired us all at a young age, as is the case with mostly anyone discovering black metal for the first time. A figure who lived, and died, with a real vampyric essence that permeated his influential lyrics and art (This is just a dream, soon I will wake…”)
Concerning Japanese hardcore; G.I.S.M., Zouo, Mobs, Ghoul, Gastunk, the Execute, etc., etc., all of these bands would play ripping but catchy metallic inspired hardcore punk, usually adorned in some extravagant or ghoulish attire wile roaring and grunting like demons. We hope this sounds familiar to everyone!
Using a chorus pedal to contrast John’s razor sharp, ear blitzing tone was a conscious, easy decision considering it’s Cassidy’s magickal pedal we already use in some of the aforementioned projects, which taints everything we touch with that crucial eerie aura.
Nothing is true, everything is permitted! That’s our attitude towards themes and tones that close minded sheep belong to any specific, convoluted subgenre.
Were you surprised by the initial response, and has the continued and steadily rising support been surprising as well? Can you talk a little about what your expectations were for this band and how they compare to what the response has been like?
This is the first band we have all been on where everyone involved has been on the exact same wavelength from the get go. While the general positive reactions have been appreciated and overwhelming, anyone with a basic understanding of magick is aware of the power of the mind and a concentrated will… So to put this in a group setting, you could say we never doubted our coven.
Your live shows are already lauded as one of the best sets you could ever hope to see nowadays. Are theatrics and atmosphere as important as playing tight for Devil Master? What are you trying to convey with the facepaint and the capes and the cobwebs?
When we first started, the current theatrics were not all there and we were definitely a little sloppier, as anyone can hear on the first demo. As we grew tighter and locked in telepathically, it has all naturally escalated in both performance and atmosphere which are now symbiotic. A sentient energy/entity has taken form that we have all totally submitted to. Our live shows are meant to induce an ecstatic trance where all present, willingly or not, are actually feeding their own energy in to this entity.
How did the deal with Relapse come about? Were you at all apprehensive about signing with a “bigger” label, or were you just straight psyched for the opportunity?
The Relapse brick and mortar store was a wet dream for anyone in to metal, so to all of us growing up in Philadelphia it was a stronghold. When I moved back to the states at 14 it was were I got the Bathory S/T shortly before its closing. Being that Relapse is based here in Philly, our now good friends saw us opening for the likes of Tomb Mold and Mammoth Grinder. Knowing that I play bass live for Integrity, Relapse reached out to them to see if we would have any interest. Having turned down a few labels before for various reasons, it was an amazing relief.
What can fans expect from the new album? Can you give us any teasers, such as where you’re recording, what it’ll be called, how many tracks it’ll be—anything?
The new album is completed. It was produced by Arthur Rizk, who has taken the horror to levels we did not think possible. We love his work with Black Twilight Circle among others so it was an honor. There are, of course, 13 tracks, one being a rerecording of a track from the first demo.
Any other big plans on the horizon for Devil Master that you care to divulge?
As stated, we are now along for the ride and barely in control it would seem. But that’s fine!