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Devil Doll - The Girl Who Was... Death CD (album) cover


Devil Doll


Heavy Prog

3.91 | 129 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I will admit that I was drawn to Devil Doll's music more because of the mystique surrounding the band than anything else. I read stories of how the band's frontman was a near-enigma who was only known as "Mr. Doctor;" how the group printed only 1 copy of their first album and then kept it; how the majority of this very album's first edition was burned onstage during a show.

For as weird as the stories are, I was expecting something really strange; perhaps RIO in the vein of Univers Zero or something of that ilk. I guess that just goes to show that you can't judge the sound of a band by its behavior, though, because in comparison to the weirdness of the band their music is almost shockingly normal. Sure, the vocal delivery is certainly one of the more bizarre I've ever heard (Mr. Doctor goes from rasping like he can't breathe to moaning like a disturbed spirit), but the music itself is very accessible, with epic gothic symphonic parts played against crossover prog-metal parts with a touch of folk. There's a lot of interesting music here, but I do feel at times that Mr. Doctor's reach exceeds his grasp.

A haunting, minimalist melody accompanied by some wordless chanting make up the first few minutes of this single track album, with the chanting becoming more strident as the song progresses. Multiple voices coalesce into an epic, gothic sounding collage of sound before the track goes into a more uptempo instrumental section that seems to take audible cues from genres as diverse as symphonic prog and industrial music. This section seems to serve as a kind of prologue, for at about the 5 minute mark it all abruptly drops out, leaving in its place more minimalist instrumentals and for the first time, lyrical vocals from enigmatic frontman Mr. Doctor. These vocals range from growling rasps to guttural shrieks, and in my opinion they definitely fit the off-kilter, almost spooky accompanying music. Another uptempo section follows this, heavily laden with string parts that pair with distorted guitars to create some kind of bastardized fusion between folk and symphonic metal.

For awhile, the track alternates in a similar pattern; with sparse vocal sections juxtaposed against bombastic, symphonic instrumental parts. It's an effective technique even if it does break up the flow of the song a little bit, but I must comment that after several listens the highly segmented pattern does get a tad tedious, as it isn't really deviated from for about 15 minutes. Fortunately, after that, the song does start playing with some new styles, putting robotically distorted vocals against doomily riffing guitar.

The following section again lets the strings take the lead, placing gorgeous melodies and frenetic classical jams against excellently supporting guitar riffs to create a kind of symphonic doom metal. Never content to stay too long in the same place, however, there's another uptempo instrumental breakdown that sounds like nothing so much as a video game soundtrack, followed by another vocal section that sounds like some sort of dark carnival music. In my opinion, this section makes the best use of Mr. Doctor's vocals on the entire album, with the frontman rasping and growling his way through the performance with all the vigor of a carnival barker.

The instrumental section that follows is one of the most melodic on the album, with an almost shocking (given that the album came out in 1989) resemblance to Phideaux. Another hyper- minimal, this time almost dark-ambient section follows, itself succeeded by a dramatic gothic piano part over which Mr. Doctor wails and moans his way through more cryptically dark lyrics.

A series of instrumentals follows, and while they're by turns beautiful, bombastic, and spookily haunting, the development of the track as a whole is a bit strange. The various instrumentals are almost "too epic" in that quite a few of them sound like they could have been the finale for the entire piece. The result is that until there's a thematic reprise at about the 35 minute mark the album sort of just feels like a bunch of different pieces that are all very cool in their own right but don't really develop the flow of the album as a whole. That isn't inherently a problem if you choose to view the album as a collection instead of a single track, but I always find my mind wanders a bit during the interim and when the track proper ends it always comes as a bit of a surprise.

Another note is that though the track is listed as 66 minutes the album proper ends at around 40. There's almost 25 minutes of silence and then there's a very short little piece that makes use of some vocal clips from the episode of The Prisoner from which the album takes its name. It's not a bad little section but, to be honest, I usually find myself turning the album off after the track proper ends. The postlude just doesn't add that much to the album.

All in all, then, "The Girl Who Was... Death" is an interesting album, if not quite a masterpiece. As a collection of distinct pieces of music, it works very well, but as a single epic track, well, I've heard better examples. Absolutely worth a listen (or, better yet, several) but this is, in my opinion, a good album but not a great one.


VanVanVan | 3/5 |


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