A review of the fifth album by a band needs to answer two fundamental questions. Is this a good point to get into this band, and is it a worthwhile purchase for existing fans? For German horrorpunk band The Other, the answer to the first question is a definitive yes, but the answer to the second question is a little harder. Lets get the easy stuff out of the way first. The Other started out as a Misfits tribute band. If you like Michele Graves-era Misfits and aren’t put off by moderately thick German accents, then The Devil You Know is a fine place to start with a band who are as close as you can get to the definitive horror punk band without actually involving Jerry Only. They combine punk drums, sing-a-long choruses (almost always with a harmonised woah-oh in there somewhere), gothic imagery and big fat metal production. If it sounds like your thing, then The Devil You Know is likely to go down a treat.
For existing fans, the picture is a little less rosy, although by no means bleak. The endorsement I gave to The Devil You Know could apply to pretty much any album in The Other’s back catalog. Whilst they have moved on considerably from their first album We’re Alive, which was a much more punk outing with simpler arrangements, it’s less clear whether The Devil You Know represents much of a departure from 2010’s New Blood. The production is sharper than ever, the songs pack more of a punch and Roderick Usher’s vocals have been pushed a little bit down in the mix and given a little more studio magic, which makes the band sound more polished at the expense of sounding less quirky and, to me at least, less interesting.
There’s some hints of variety on display in this offering. It moves from the mid-paced metallic stomp of ‘My Home is My Casket’ to the classic sing-a-long horrorpunk of ‘Take You Down’ quite happily. My pick of the album is probably ‘Skeletons in the Closet’ which manages to remind me of seventies pop in good way whilst cleaving reasonably close to The Other’s underground roots. Elsewhere on the album, ‘The Fright’ has worrying overtones of big stadium metal bands, whilst ‘In My Veins’ and ‘Nice Day for a Funeral’ lurk closer to the basic horrorpunk template. ‘Phantom of the Opera’ steals its opening riff from the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical but thankfully manages to be more than an unnecessary goth homage. Let’s not overstate things though; people without a discerning ear for the genre are likely to find the songs all sound quite similar. Almost all of them go ‘whoah-oh’, and this is a Good Thing.
The Devil You Know sees The Other move towards a more radio friendly big venue feel. It’s a move that probably makes sound financial sense and makes this their most accessible album to date. That’s all very well, but I didn’t get into horrorpunk to listen to accessible music. I got into horrorpunk because I wanted to listen to horribly produced music that was obsessed with the 1950s and which didn’t give a fuck about popularity. That’s the only issue with this record – that by getting slicker and bigger, The Other may be in danger of robbing themselves of the rough charm that made them special in the first place.