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​Devil You Know retains heaviness, but lacks metalcore catchiness

Group provides rugged, bass-laden tunes sans memorable melodies

If you don’t generally recognize the bestial bellows and beautiful baritone of former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones, you may not be a true metalcore fan. You may, however, be excused of this qualifier if you don’t recognize Jones while listening to Devil You Know’s new album, “They Bleed Red,” for his growls and vocal hooks are not quite what they used to be.

“They Bleed Red” is conceptually consistent with metal’s repute — at least, its repute as gauged by those who loathe it. Indeed, track titles like “The Way We Die,” “Stay of Execution” and “Let the Pain Take Hold” signal the friendly and familiar sentiments of death, destruction and despair. This should get any true metal head’s blood boiling. The genre’s disciples should take pride in its clichés: nothing makes you sound more dangerous and tough to unsuspecting inquirers than telling them you’re currently listening to “Consume the Damned” by a band whose name sounds Satanic.

Their genre’s menacing aura aside, Devil You Know’s newest work is vocally reminiscent of the latest album by Killswitch Engage, “Disarm the Descent.” While the harsh vocals of both Jones and KSE vocalist Jesse Leach sound absolutely demonic on other KSE records, a shift in album production tampered with the latest screams and growls by the two frontmen. Unlike Jones’ 2004 and 2006 albums with KSE, on “They Bleed Red,” a bit of a shout rings through his growls. No, it’s not so torturous and tedious as the old Oli Sykes’ half-scream-half-cry, but it lacks a diabolical wholeness by refusing to discard a certain human strain. This makes lyrical passages come across as more emo and angsty rather than purely brutal and wrathful.

While Jones’ vocals may be lacking, his cleans are more entrancing. “Master of None” contains wistful murmurs and the chorus of “Your Last Breath” boasts a medieval-sounding chant. Still, some songs such as “Break the Ties” strive to sound epic, but lack the classic KSE catchiness. Unlike Jones’ former band, Devil You Know relies more on a hardcore/punk sound. “They Bleed Red” is still atmospherically intricate — i.e. the guitar solo in “The Way We Die,” the synth outro to “Master of None” and a healthy dose of bass throughout — but the tracks are less memorable than KSE’s.

Devil You Know covers “Eye of the Tiger” on the album’s deluxe version. Particularly enjoyable is the band’s mutation of the legendary Survivor riff into a metal breakdown. Perhaps this song stands out because of its familiarity, which provides an important caveat on “They Bleed Red”: don’t dismiss it because it’s not immediately catchy. It sure is gnarly and, just like the moody, raw-yet-natural “The Hymn of a Broken Man” by KSE side project Times of Grace, it might just take a little while to grow on you.