Russian band Vo’Devil Stokes debut album, Black Snake, is a daring first album from a group looking to hit big on the current wave of hard rock kicked off by Bring Me The Horizon’s newest album, That’s The Spirit. It doesn’t always succeed, but it can’t be faulted for effort.
Leadoff track “Elements” sets the tone: led by slightly raspy clean vocals haunting electronics, and a straight-forward riff, Vo’Devil Stokes are certainly aiming for radio play. The hook is similar to any number of modern rock bands – Three Days Grace comes to mind – but is missing that special something to get it to the same level. Follow-up track and lead single, “Banshee,” introduces itself with a cool synth hook, but loses momentum through the verses. The chorus is catchy without being memorable, with a hook you can tap your foot to, but one that vanishes from the mind as soon as the song ends. The rap breakdown midway through helps make the song distinct and is actually really good, but also seems a little forced in the context of the song. Title track “Black Snake” at first sounds like a coda to “Banshee,” before evolving into its own song. It picks up steam until the solo around three minutes, which is a definitely highlight moment of the album on an otherwise mediocre song.
“The Walking Dead” comes in slow and brooding, choosing to build atmosphere rather than kick down the door, and keeps that slithering vibe the entire song. The explosion comes on the next track, “Burning Paradise,” which goes a bit gruffer and minimal, coming across very similar to something by Issues. It’s by far the strongest song on the album so far, switching between a soft verse and a singalong chorus with a killer hook. “Hero” relies on a pulsing electronic hook during the chorus, and while it doesn’t sound much different from any other song here, it succeeds at the formula better than the songs around it, making it a good candidate for a breakout single.
“To Father” is the best track on Black Snake. Opening with a children’s choir and a stuttering electronic hook, it feels very derivative of Bring Me The Horizon’s new sound, but the chorus is so big it’s impossible to care. The vocals stretch to new heights, hitting a half-falsetto, and the samples are finally utilized to full effect. Closer “Coast To Coast” starts minimalist and once against features a very strong BMTH feel, before going for a slower but anthemic chorus, ending the album on a powerful note.
It’s hard to call this almost a must-listen, but it’s impossible to suggest skipping it. The riffs for the most part fail to stand out, and many of the songs begin to sound too similar by the end, but there are moments of brilliance on Black Snake. Vo’Devil Stokes certainly have the potential to be as big as any band on the radio right now, they just haven’t quite ironed out how to get there yet.