Sometimes, success is born as a result of tragedy. Lost Prophets were forced to disband in 2013 following the discovery of lead singer Ian Watkins’ child sex offences. The rest of the band had no involvement and were just as shocked as the public, but it affected their reputation. They assumed that people would never “look us in the face” and were told that their music careers were essentially over.
However, in 2014, No Devotion was formed by the remaining members of Lost Prophets and ex-Thursday front-man Geoff Rickly who thought that they “needed a second chance”. In an interview with NME at Leeds Festival, the band expressed their gratitude at being able to – finally – move on without having to mention the initial incident that brought No Devotion into fruition.
No Devotion have a unique sound that bears no resemblance to either Lost Prophets or Thursday; though some songs maintain a rock element, the sound is much darker and focuses on synths and lyrics that echo and blend into the melody. In the same NME interview, Rickly and Stuart Richardson said that they have been compared to bands like Joy Division, The Cure, and New Order, but their influences are varied, from Evian Christ to Gil Scott-Heron. It’s described by the band as “dance music that you can’t dance to” and Richardson aptly describes their songs as “noise vistas”.
“Break” kicks Permanence off with its slow, dream-like melody, easing us into No Devotion’s world. Rickly’s voice has two distinct modes: low and broody, coupled with high and expressive. Though even when he shouts, his voice maintains a modest volume as if the synths rather than the vocals are the dominant sound for the most part. This plus the slight reverb distorts the lyrics slightly, but it doesn’t compromise the music.
“Permanent Sunlight” is a lot more upbeat, a song which Rickly dubs “the brightest moment on the record”. It begins with an electric guitar but the synth soon joins in with its catchy riff that then forms the chorus’ main sound. The lyrics are more distinct, though there is still some distortion present. The melody is freeing, and sounds a bit more like a pop song.
Though they describe their sound as dark, a running theme is romance, but love is not always successful or perfect. “I Wanna Be Your god” (which initially sounds pretentious until the line: “I just want to be your god / Watching you and keeping you from harm”), “10,000 Summers”, “Stay”, and “Addition” have themes that revolve around love, but almost all of them are bittersweet in tone.
“Addition” for example tells the story of someone who finds love, gets married, then leaves them even though they proclaim: “I still love you, like I’ve always done”. We don’t find out what’s going on until a flashback in the second verse when the protagonist goes to the doctor. Heartstrings are pulled when Rickly sings: “At 33 I promise you if I make it to next year / I’ll still love you, like I’ve always done”. Each milestone is preceded by age, a familiar yet effective format. This is one of No Devotion’s songs that has a predominately rock sound.
Each song made me feel relaxed, like floating in a warm bath or going to bed after a long day. The melodies had the ability to create such a powerful, almost magical atmosphere that could be enjoyed despite the lyrics sometimes taking a back seat. “Death Rattle”, a song that is supposed to reflect “the sound of the Lostprophets smashing all their old records”, doesn’t even have any lyrics. Permanence is out now via Geoff Rickly’s Collect Records, and can be purchased here.
Words by Shanade McConney