The Devil’s Trade is David Mako, singer of Hungarian doom band Stereochrist and sludge guys HAW on his own playing what he pretty damned accurately describes as doom folk. Pretty much sums it up really. It’s kind of not a million miles from some Steve Von Till or Scott Kelly but with a much more doom laden sound. With the semi acoustic opening ‘I Can Slow Down Time Pt1’ guitar and picked banjo lead you gently into the album until the far more doom smothered tones of ‘To An End’ enter. With the deep, edged vocals this is a crippling, depressing trawl through something close to early King Dude and a touch of Viva Emptiness Katatonia. The outlook here is unrelenting, grim and bleak; somehow the heavy accented English amplifies this, and the clean, clear production plucks every cut of pain from the strings.
Between this and ‘Your Own Hell’ we get the sound of Hungarian folk, almost from a radio, which keeps you pulled close before this song gets going. Just voice and guitar, this is almost old Pearl Jam gone folk. The voice is so close to Mr Vedder with the same ability to draw every drop of emotion from the lyrics. It is urgent in its pain, crescendo driven and beautifully judged.
It’s odd that even though this is pretty immediate music it is somehow difficult to approach as it has the potential to cut raw wounds in you. There is nowhere to hide for the performer in this sparse, simple plucked music, but no place for the listener either.
I can’t pretend to know how many of these compositions are original and how many are standards but I know the utterly harrowing ‘St James Hospital’ from my late father’s music. A standard I first heard the Alan Lomax version of but this…oh lord this is just brilliant. It gives me bone deep chills. Downtuned guitar falling to low rumbling, and a voice crying out from a soul on the brink of Hell. Live the intensity of this must be apocalyptic and on record it is so beautiful, so intense, so deeply musical and harrowing that when it finishes you have no idea where to go, how to go on.
What Happened To The Little Blind Crow is a terrible, hopeless world of wonder. It somehow sparkles but offers no redemption, no respite. With the most gentle of music and simple of instrumentation it cuts you off from the bright day from the first moment and when it has finished with you it leaves you to find your own way back if you can.
Breathtaking, cutting, hopeless, apocalyptic doom folk. This is something else indeed.