The idea of a Southwestern band like Devil with No Name might have seemed preposterous back when Euronymous was alive, but this stateside export has made a mission out of using ferocious black metal to evoke the harsh Arizona outback. Having already given doom metal the Western treatment with Sonoran Rebel Black Magick, Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Markuszewski started the DWNN concept with bassist/vocalist Michał Juśko of another Arizona black metal project called Sovereign. With drummer Cody Stein of Oakland’s Void Omnia rounding out the lineup, this self-titled debut effectively parachutes hellish black metal into a sweltering desert.

On their self-titled EP, DWNN clarifies its black metal credibility right out the gate with opening cut “Grand Western Apostasy.” The harrowing tremolo picking and unrelenting blast beats hit like a salvo of flaming arrows. This form of black metal music burns like the Grand Canyon at noon, switching out Frostbitten vagabonds in the Carpathian forest with anti-cosmic outlaws fighting back mirages in a barren dustbowl. Black metal’s inherent atmosphere proves its adaptability. The band builds a vivid, frightening world, aptly summed up by Markuszewski’s opening lyrics: “There’s no greater place for apostasy than here in the West/ No surrender, no need for deliverance.”

The band’s cultural cross-section lends itself to a subgenre known as “black ‘n’ roll,” which is especially apparent on “Alleluia” and closing track “Monad.” Stein’s midtempo beat stomps away as Markuszewski and Juśko lock into hard-grooving, dissonant riffage. While not exactly unheard of, considering albums like Shining’s Klagopsalmer, these slower cuts showcase DWNN’s balance of hard-hitting rhythm and eerie hypnosis.

Both tracks provide some surprisingly detailed chord progressions and bombastic rhythm changes, all the while exuding a convincingly evil black-metal aura. The feverish chants toward the end of the former track generate a thick, dusty atmosphere, just like the latter’s blunderbuss approach to nuanced ambiance.

DWNN’s passion for their approach is clear, but sonically, it’s not too unlike the rustic grit of bands like Wayfarer or Cobalt. Heck, the state-centered concept has become synonymous with Kentucky luminaries Panopticon. With that being said, these four tracks and 20 minutes leave a little to be desired with regard to a definitive statement.

Regardless, there’s no denying the compelling intensity of “Sycophants of the Covenant.” Markuszewski and Juśko balance droning clean singing and abyssal croaking like Mayhem’s Attila, conjuring a blistering sandstorm of manic tremolo picking alongside Stein’s tumbling drums. There’s a lot of potential in their seamless transition to a bouncier groove toward the end. The fact these guys embrace an almost country-western rhythm structure while remaining fully black metal in terms of atmosphere is undeniably admirable.

Devil with No Name has formed the foundation of a unique concept on this debut. In terms of execution, there’s a lot to appreciate about the musicality, authenticity and atmosphere. The EP does leaves behind a want for more, but that’s partly because it’s too short to become entirely engrossing and doesn’t bring a lot in the way of distinctive sonics. Assuming what follows is more fleshed-out and developed, this trio may yet succeed in settling the black metal Wild West.

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One Comment

  1. Skuggs

    June 3, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    Well said, dude.


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