“Have you guys heard the D-Devils?”
It was 2006 and the voice belonged to my good friend Rachael. The question was addressed to my wife and I. The answer was that no, we had not heard the D-Devils.
So we did and there we were, all three of us squished in Rachael’s tiny car, zipping around the streets of Richmond, laughing until we cried. Rachael, a frenetic ball of laughter, turquoise hair, tattoos, and piercing, knew every word. She shouted the lyrics, such as they were, exulting in the goofiness, punctuating each line with effortless, raucous laughter. This went on for a few hours, before and after meals out, on and on, beat out by the steady metronome of that song.
Here’s what we know: the D-Devils are Belgian. Very Belgian. They have two full albums out, “Dance With the Devil” and “No Future Without Us”, from 2001 and 2003, respectfully. This meant that, by 2006, they were already well into past due status in the quickly moving world of electronic subgenres. Today, they’re ancient, with a website which hasn’t been updated since 2010 (I’ve no idea why it was updated for even that long).
The D-Devils are about schtick and, oh my, what schtick it is. They dress like devils, prosthetic horns and all, go on stage, and play what discogs.com refers to as trance, but is really closer to The KLF’s stadium house, albeit updated with newer bleeps and bloops (it should be noted that The KLF was dedicated to schtick, as well, and that the D-Devils’ sound is shockingly close to those other inheritors of The KLF’s sound, Scooter). They’re theatre of the absurd, making music about releasing virgins, ritual sacrifice, and bring sex and drugs and house music to the masses in order to hasten the arrival of the Great Beast.
It’s all extraordinarily goofy. But there’s a charm there, like a bad movie which is really earnest about what it’s doing. The best bad movies aren’t “Sharknado” or the SyFy approach; they’re those movies which might be a little bit aware of their own badness, but mostly really think they’re making an artistic statement. “The Room”, yes, but the glorious 50s giant bug movies or art school projects gone bad like “The Final Sacrifice”. The D-Devils are the musical equivalent of those films.
Looking through what little history of the band which can be easily found, it seems that the band found their most success in Mexico. A Belgian band dressed up like cartoons devils making Mexican clubs bounce seems odd until it’s viewed through the lens of the EBM which came out of Mexico in the late 90s and early 00s. Bands like Hocico and Amduscia had the same sort of face paint and absurdity-as-seriousness vibe going on at roughly the same time that the D-Devils ruled the decks in Mexico City. Fans of those spookily serious post-industrial bands are liable to howl at the comparison, but there’s barely a finger’s width of difference.
Their magnum opus (it’s been commercially released as a single no fewer than ten times), “6th Gate”, is what we had thumping in the car seven years ago. It’s a masterpiece of overstated faux-satanic pomp; the narrator, through baritone effects, darkly relates the story of the last visitors to Hell. For some reason, that makes it “your turn to feel that pain”. From there, the six gates of Hell are named and we’re off to the races, a list plucked from the fever dreams of Jack Chick. It’s so goofy that you can’t possibly accept that these guys are serious. And yet, there they are, on stage in trench coats and two hours’ worth of makeup each, horns bopping around with their heads. They’re bringing it. My gosh, they’re on stage and they’re bringing it and the crowd is eating it up. Who’s playing who here?
Gate 1: Darkness, the world of demons.
Gate 2: My guards are watching you.
Gate 3: Only evil lives here.
Gate 4: There’s no way out.
Gate 5: Feel the fire.
Gate 6: Pick up your weapons and fight
Wait. Fight? Why is the titular 6th Gate fighting? That makes no sense. A verb can’t be a noun. A command can’t be a gate. Why do you want to fight us at all? Who are you talking to?
Then we’re dancing with the Devil with a little weird bloopy breakdown until we’re counting again. And then it happens. Another countdown, the music stops, silence for a fraction of a second, and the Devil makes a demand: “Now fight me again!”
This is where I lose it every time. I’ve listened to this song a regrettably large number of times and I die laughing every single time. Seven years and it has just as much effect on me as it did the first time I heard it, with a belly full of wine and a driver’s seat full of Rachael.
It takes me back, too. I’m not sure what it says about me that, of the serious songs, the touching songs, which I listen to, this song has so many memories attached. Maybe my epitaph ends up reading that I was a connoisseur of bad movies and music ahead of anything else I might be now or end up being later. That might be mightily unfortunate for some, but if it means I can go back to a car filled with three friends wondering where this strangeness blaring from the speakers came from, unfettered laughter causing people at stoplights to stare, that might be okay.
I’m also hoping for a reunion tour.