Everything is perfect about this album, and that is really what makes Dark Devotion the best black metal album in existence. The feeling of sickening raw despair you get from listening to this album is simply beyond words.
Dark Devotion pushes black metal toward its limits. It raises black metal up to its most grim elements (atmosphere and viciousness) and then bombards the listener with absolute satanic depravity for the entire album. Typically, these sorts of "pushing the genre to its extreme" albums have, despite a relatively enjoyable novelty, very little substance. It's the sheer quality of the compositions makes Dark Devotion such a phenomenal work that every metal fan should possess.
Dark Devotion is certainly an extremely evil gem. I don't know if it can be called black metal, as it seems to transcend the limitations of the black metal genre, but it sure possesses the demonic atmosphere that black metal seeks (and mostly fails) to emulate.
Dark Devotion is best listened to in bright sunlight, at mid-day. Do NOT feel tempted to listen to this record at night, to prove how "true" your are or otherwise.
Nothing breaks the immersion like having to change yourself because you just shit your pants when you heard Phantom's evil atmospheres.
Dark Devotion is one cruel masterpiece of an album.
Many will claim that Divine Necromancy was Phantom's most evil and aggressive album, while From the Mouth of Madness was their most eerie and atmospheric. I wonder what they will say when they listen to Dark Devotion, as this album is both more evil than Divine Necromancy and more atmospheric than From the Mouth of Madness.
Dark Devotion is hell, be warned.
(the video above is in fact NOT from Dark Devotion, as Youtube puts an age restriction on all of the tracks since they are so evil)
The music on Dark Devotion is composed of guitar frenzies showcasing fast tremolo picking chords, slower eerie pieces, bass guitar parts that are both very dark and dreary and demonic drums that add a fervent intensity music. All of the songs are very memorable and unique. The vocals are so evil and possessed, you won't sleep for ten night after hearing them. The guitar sound is very unique and creative, both insanely fast and very well played out. The chords are mostly picked with fury and an almost ghastly anger.
The driving force behind Dark Devotion is the brilliant guitar work. The tones are simply phenomenal. While all the riffs are played with the same razor sharp precision and unearthly speed, the moods they express are extremely varied. Riffs such as the lead on To Worship a Severed Head depict a tragic beauty while the riffs on the title track Dark Devotion revel in a tyrannical evil. The change of atmosphere and melodies allows for a ton of diversity throughout the recording while maintaining excellent cohesion. The speed and rawness with which Phantom performs gives the riffs a terribly vicious feel, as if the compositions were meant for mind torture rather than musical enjoyment.
Dark Devotion is, to put it mildly, a masterpiece of sinister gruesomeness.
There is no annoying "catchiness" or "symphonic" bullshit that only serves to stay in your head and break the immersion. With Phantom's Dark Devotion, the immersion is absolute and irrevocable. Even the riffs don't take the ascendancy over the atmosphere, as is the case with many modern black metal albums, but are instead used in synergy with the vocals and drums to create a demonic wall of sound.
There are some moments, however, such as the middle of Red Fiend Harrower, where a mournful melody begins to drag the listener towards the infernal gates... but in general, the guitars are as heavy and violent as they come.
The deranged atmosphere is really what makes Dark Devotion such a work of evil.
At some point during your listen, whether in the first few minutes, during the middle of the first track or even in the middle of the album, you will forget that you are listening to black metal music... and you will live the arrant deviousness of Dark Devotion through your forever maimed soul.
The songs on Dark Devotion are not "catchy" or "progressive", which is a good thing. In fact, you might entirely forget about the musical details of this album after your listen. But the foul memories and visceral experience of pure malevolence will haunt you forever.
Such is the price for reveling in Dark Devotion...
Dark Devotion score: 100/10 (PURE EVIL)