Speaking about No Devotion is often done with a heavy heart. The reasoning behind this is, no matter how great they are, they’ll always act as a reminder that one of the greatest British bands of recent times, Lostprophets, are no longer. It’s by no means their fault though; the unspeakable actions of former vocalist Ian Watkins – actions that need not be discussed any further than they already have – were the catalyst that brought the band’s legacy to its knees. Still, the best thing about No Devotion’s existence is the fact that it’s a second chance for the remaining members (minus ex-drummer Luke Johnson) to continue their musical career with Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly at the helm. Ultimately though, good will alone will only get No Devotion so far – the real judgement is the material on their long-awaited debut Permanence. Fortunately, it’s an album that’s strong enough to warrant any success that comes their way.
For anyone curious about the similarities between Lostprophets and No Devotion, there aren’t any. Whereas that band specialised in unabashedly massive rock anthems, No Devotion favour subtly and texture. Prominent synths and post-punk stylings take the fore, a far darker, more brooding prospect that previous, and one with a keen eye on the underground in terms of influence. The likes of Cold Cave, Portishead and A Place To Bury Strangers can all be picked up scattered around the album, and that should be indicative enough of the direction that the band are taking. There’s a definite dichotomy between light and dark throughout, the latter surfacing more often in the likes of Nightdrive‘s noir soundscape, but punctuated by the former in the shimmering Permanent Sunlight or the hooky disco lento of Stay.
Permanence is unmistakably a debut album – it occasionally ambles a bit too close to the acts it references, and some tracks just seem kind of there rather than making any substantial impact, such as the forgettable pairing of Eyeshadow and Why Can’t I Be With You?. As it stands though, it’s an album that’s worth exploring if only to hear Rickly’s skilfulness in this area. On this album, he’s not the same vocalist at the helm of much harder bands like Thursday or United Nations. Here, he takes up a role much more like Ian Curtis or Morrissey, with pained, murmured vocals injecting a fair amount of human touch into a sound that could be said to be a tad too cold. The buildup of gentle new wave to explosive anthemia on 10,000 Summers verges on sublime, and the guitar-driven Addition drips with passion throughout.
Ironically, the song that stands out most is the sole track without Rickly, the instrumental Death Rattle. Written before Rickly joined the band, it swells and swells until it morphs into an unrelenting wall of crashing drums and almost siren wails in the synths, marking perhaps the album’s biggest departure from anything its instrumental section have ever done. It closes the book on their old band for good, and is a great representation of just what this new project is actually capable of.
Permanence is not the sort of modern classic that came from any of No Devotion’s member’s other bands, but that really isn’t the point. What is the point is that it gives four men who had their entire career snatched from them through no fault of their own another chance at sharing their creative endeavours with the world. Even if this album wasn’t good that would be a success in its own right, but the fact that it is, is just the icing on the cake.
For fans of: Joy Division, The Cure, Depeche Mode
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Permanence’ by No Devotion is released on 25th September on Collect Records.