If anything is to be said outright about Dehd’s Flower of Devotion it’s that variety is not their cup of tea. Flower of Devotion is so uniform in its songs’ structures, textures, melodies, and rhythms that the band could have set up an outline and then simply checked off the boxes. As their third full-length release, you’d expect that the sounds would at least begin to evolve out of the aesthetic of the first two. But, other than a slightly cleaner sound and a reverb knob that got cranked up a notch, Flower of Devotion remains essentially the same album as their self-titled first release. There’s only one word that sums this all up, and it’s “formulaic”.
As with everything, whether or not Dehd’s particular formula is “good” or “bad” comes down to taste. Flower of Devotion is cinematic: the simplicity and consistency of its echoing riffs carry images of carefree youth, freedom, broken innocence, you know, themes you would find in any coming-of-age, lovestruck indie movie. The most striking and musically achieved aspect of these songs is the composition of their vocal parts, not to mention their vocal performances. Singers Emily Kempf and Jason Balla’s contrasting voices make for an interwoven bed of melodies, the former growling and the latter yawning. Check out “Month”, a tune about the circular nature of time, memory, and looking back on lost relationships, to get a glimpse at Dehd’s vocal expressions.
Even though “Flood” follows the same formula as the rest of the album, which includes floor tom, kick drum, snare, tambourine, eighth notes on the bass, one guitar sound, and vocals, it is however a rare peak on a plateau of an album. Kempf’s phrasing and Balla’s guitar interact in a loose call-and-response that drives the song forward convincingly. As the song nears its conclusion, the bridge is an evocative elaboration of the chorus. Kempf’s voice quivers as she pronounces “flood” with a vibrato that sounds as if her mic ran through a tremolo pedal. The song ghosts along, referencing abandoned rooms, windows boarded-up, and cities both burning and drowning. The single is a song of devotion during an apocalypse featuring a surfy guitar. Picture that.
Reminiscent of 80s act The Jesus and Mary Chain, Flower of Devotion, along with Dehd’s former two albums, has vintage preoccupations. The lonely guitar, heavy snare, and immense vocals (mix-wise) all provide for this. Theirs is a simple balance that calls for a particular, but easy listening experience. The album seems to be in a situation in which the listener will love it, or just feel indifference toward it. If it’s not your sound, sorry…but, if it is, you have a lot to look forward to.