rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Freedom Fall
02. Be You Angel, Be You Beast
03. Claw the Clouds
04. Vengeance is Hers
05. For Galaxies to Clash
06. The Springrise
07. Scattering the Timeweb
08. 300 Years old
09. Nihil Juggernaut
10. No God Loves

DEVILLE is a guitar band...see album cover for details.

To be clear, that's the cover of 2013's "Hydra" we are referring to - this being the Swedish group's third full-length and first for the biggest and most consistent champions of "Camaro Metal" (?),Small Stone Records, which inevitably tempts one to assume that a wholesale stoner rock experience is in store.

But wait, don't reach for that basement couch, family-size bag of Cheetos and glow-in-the-dark bong just yet, 'cos there's more to DEVILLE than these stereotypes - even if, at the end of the day, it all revolves around guitars, guitars and more guitars.

For starters, DEVILLE's songs aren't merely about brawn and bluster: "Lava" features ghostly backing vocals across its midsection; "Iron Fed" betrays distinct alternative metal minor chord voicings; "In Vain" tops surprisingly bouncy grooves with hypnotic guitar dervishes?and those are just the first four tracks.

Ensuing numbers continually tightrope high above this three-ringed circus, comprised of classic heavy rock (one),'90s alternative, err, "stuff" (two),and perhaps least emphatic of all, stoner rock (three, told you!),which nevertheless informs the entire album's core ethos and certainly core attributes of tunes like "The Knife", "Empire" (a song simultaneously steeped in purer heavy metal values) and the instrumental "Battles will be Born", in particular.

Still, it's the endless hopscotch from one style to the next within any given song that highlights the band's best material, including the alternately fiery and doom-laden "Burning Towers" and the joyously head-stomping "Blood Crown".

One also gets a vibe, as the album progresses, that the Swedes' clean instrumental separation and punchy production - reminiscent of the work of Nick Raskulinecz - reveals their non-evil desire to learn what helpful hints they can from mainstream hard rockers, like the FOO FIGHTERS and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (without succumbing to forced flirtations with the latter's recognizable sonic quirks).

So yeah, there's plenty of brawn, bluster and - you bet! - guitars all over "Hydra"; but lots of texture and flexibility too, offering clever dynamics and evincing broader emotions to elevate DEVILLE above the mediocre Orange Cabinet-abusing masses out there.

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