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Single Review: Devilskin – “Barracuda (Heart Cover)”

New Zealand’s Devilskin continues to stand out as one of the country’s premier modern rock bands. The Hamilton-based quintet’s multiplatinum status is bolstered by two albums and a live presence not only in neighboring Australia, but in the UK and throughout much of Europe. Since yesterday, their latest release, EP called Surfacing, has already gained traction on streaming services, featuring six covers of classic rock songs.

Ahead of the EP’s release came its first single, “Barracuda,” originally by Heart, off their 1977 third album Little Queen. When it comes to modern renditions of older hard rock songs, they usually run the risk of sounding too modern – that is, having an overt, in-your-face component to the vocals and instrumentation that lacks nuance, coming across as one-dimensional and flat. But as soon as I heard the song’s iconic “chug-chugga-chug” riff played close to the original key, I knew they were headed in the right direction. There’s a strong sense of clarity in the chord progressions, and how well the vocals blend alongside the riffs. The drums are full of similarly nuanced energy, in a way that feels heavy without any overexertion. As far as what makes this track distinctive, a large part of that stems from the song’s recurring harmonic sequence. Rather than gradually build up with the addition of subtle notes like in the original, the guitars employ a wail that increases in intensity with every implementation, which is expected given the band’s metal background. By the remaining part of the track, the presence of the guitar solo, in all its unbridled, divebomb-laden glory, fits well with the band’s style, and the free rein in the vocal work toward the end is something that the original actually could have expanded upon.

Overall, Devilskin’s cover of “Barracuda” is not only a solid cover to carry the EP, but an acknowledgeable and understandable snapshot of the band’s current catalogue. For this song, Devilskin make sure to inject their own artistic imprint, but smartly and subtly, all the while staying close faithful to the original. Let’s hope that the concept for Surfacing isn’t a one-off, but a prelude to especially expansive, and dare I say, heartfelt material representing the current stage of their career.

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About Jake Kussmaul

I come from a family who is passionate about all things music. I learned to sing at an early age, and by 13, had my very own Fender Strat guitar. I tried my hardest at learning all that I could. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I had to teach myself an adaptive playing style. I learned to write and record my own music, despite these difficulties. In college, I started making great use of my writing abilities by reviewing music, as well as copy editing. I guess it's best to stick with what you know, while welcoming a fair challenge at the same time.

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