This year has been the toughest that many of us have ever faced. The coronavirus lockdowns across the world have prevented us from seeing family and friends, forced us into working from our kitchen tables, and caused the live music industry to come to an almost complete standstill.

However, many bands are still forging forwards with bringing innovative and inspiring new music into the world – and Devil Sold His Soul are doing it with a powerful finesse. Their new record is aptly titled ‘Loss’ and sees their ambient metalcore sound elevated to punishing new heights.

It was inevitable that the lyrics would have to be as vulnerable as possible
- Jozef Norocky

For bassist Jozef Norocky, the themes on ‘Loss’ have only become more pertinent throughout the pandemic: “We started writing the music for the album three years ago, but the vocals were mostly recorded in the spring of 2020 once the global situation had changed.

“There were individual reasons why the album deals with 'loss' as the theme, but it is sort of tragically poetic I suppose that the events that unfolded last year synched up so well with what we wanted to express. I haven't seen any family for over a year at this point and I'm finding it very difficult, to be honest. I know I'll look back on this as a very unnerving and emotional time, and the album perfectly sums a lot of that up.”

While the pandemic has posed personal challenges for everyone, those working within the live music sector have been more affected than most, with some tours being postponed by up to two years from their original scheduled dates. Looking forward to playing their new songs live is Jozef’s driving force: “For me, it’s the camaraderie of being on the road with the other guys first and foremost. When you have all of that freedom taken away from you, you realise how special it is to be able to spend time together creating, travelling, meeting people who love what you do and, of course, performing the music we love.”

While we would all love to see the return of live music in the UK this summer, as is currently being promised by the British government, much of the industry, Jozef included, aren’t getting their hopes up just yet: “Realistically, I don't know enough of the science to say. Texas has just had a packed Major League Baseball game so, if nothing too negative comes of that, maybe it’s time to allow people their freedom and allow live events again. I'm no expert!”

As if all of that wasn’t enough to be dealing with, after Brexit, musicians in the UK have also yet to work out how to navigate around the red-tape barriers that have been erected with regards to touring in the EU, even once all coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. This is just another way in which the music industry is at the mercy of the powers that be: “Of course, I have no idea how it will affect us at the moment.” Jozef comments. “As soon as we can do some shows we will be there. Until then we're at the mercy of the decision-makers.”

Yet, amid all the doom and gloom, thankfully there has always been, and will always be, the music. Whilst music for Jozef growing up never needed to be an escape or a crutch, it certainly was a form of inspiration and gave him the zest for wanting to make music of his own: “I'm very fortunate to have had a great upbringing and never had to use music as any sort of escape or healing process,” he said.

“Ironically, it’s as I've gotten older and become aware of my own limited time here and my own mortality that I've felt more and more catharsis in heavy music. When I was growing up it was 'Oh, that’s a badass riff!'; now it's 'Oh, that’s a badass riff and I'm so glad to be alive to hear it!' - I don’t know if that makes sense!

“I have a few bands that inspired me personally for sure. The Beatles made me love music, Foo Fighters made me want to play music, White Zombie and Slayer made me want to play metal, and Will Haven made me want to be in a band with brutal screaming!”

Indeed, it is often the case that the best art comes from being thrust into the seas of change in times like this. The music world at large has seen a shift in recent years towards a blending of genres, and the breaking down of walls between sounds that would have previously resided firmly in either the ‘pop’ or ‘metal’ camps. Yet, Devil Sold His Soul see themselves as somewhat detached from this cyclical evolution within popular music, for, as Jozef explains, “Things happen in cycles.

“Linkin Park blended literal pop with distorted guitars 20 years ago. There are moments where rock and metal are more mainstream and then it retreats again until another band comes along and crosses over. But that’s never really interested me and has no influence or effect on Devil. We've always only ever done our music how we see fit to write it.”

When it comes to this new record, however, not all has remained static. ‘Loss’ is the first Devil Sold His Soul record to feature dual vocals, from both founding vocalist Ed Gibbs, and the later addition of Paul Green. Many might imagine that this new transition might have caused some friction in the vocal booth – however, according to Jozef, it was quite the contrary: “The guys have said it was a super organic and enjoyable experience for them writing the record. Paul had been in a band with two singers before, so he already has some experience but either way, once they found their method I believe it came together smoothly for the most part.”

When it comes to the lasting impact that Devil Sold His Soul wish ‘Loss’ to have on their listeners, the most significant element isn’t the dynamic changes on tracks like ‘Witness Marks’, the haunting bridge on ‘Acrimony’, or even ‘The Narcissist’s stonking great riffs that would have so invigorated the young Jozef. It instead comes from the lyrics that speak so powerfully to the listener. This album confronts the horrific reality of grief and absence, whilst also creating a sense of camaraderie in the fight against the darkness. As Jozef poetically remarks: “Devil has always been about balancing something abstract with something relatable.

“I think with the record being so focused on a particular theme, especially one so universal and painful as 'loss', it was inevitable that the lyrics would have to be as vulnerable as possible. I think listeners will feel that.

“For me, a record or a movie or any art should be judged on its effectiveness in achieving what it set out to achieve. The album attempts to convey the myriad feelings associated with loss. The loss of a loved one, the denial, the anger, the sadness, perhaps more recently even the loss of individual liberty. I would love it if a listener took away a sense of gratitude for what they have that others may no longer have in their life.”

Devil Sold His Soul - Loss is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.