The Devil Within is pretty much a Japanese melodeath supergroup. Every member of the band is a part of one (or more) notable metal bands in the Japanese scene. When the band and its lineup was announced, it was pretty hard not to feel the hype. Kouta's guitar prowess is on constant display over in Thousand Eyes (his main gig), so there was never a concern there. Undead Corporation is far too core for my taste, but there was no question that the guys from that band (Kensuke and Yu-to) were good players. I dig Afterzero, so seeing Yoji on bass was nice. And of course, MergingMoon's second album is a treasure, so U on vocals was undoubtedly a major asset.
Upon looking at this lineup, I naively assumed that Kouta was the man of the hour here. He is the brains and mastermind behind Thousand Eyes, so I just figured Devil Within was his baby. Plus, you have to admit that Kouta just looks pretty fucking metal. Well obviously it turned out that I was wrong. The person behind all of the songwriting is actually the guy with the goofy-looking hair, Kensuke (who made the switch from bass in Undead Corporation to guitar in Devil Within). It turns out that Kensuke is both a splendid guitarist and a great songwriter, so I suppose I shouldn't make fun of his hair too much. From start to finish, the album is straightforward melodeath, but it avoids all of the usual trappings of that genre.
Japanese melodeath bands, for better or worse (usually worse), often have core elements in their sound. Dark Supremacy is exactly 0% core, so you can rest assured that you won't have to come out as a poser to your metalhead friends. The album is almost 100% by the book, but the execution is spot on. Sure, they don't sound terribly different than other melodeath bands you've heard before, but Devil Within maintains high quality songwriting and riffing to keep you hooked in. They employ a high variety of memorable, good riffs plus excellent leads and guitar solos throughout the entire runtime. Add some pretty sweet drumming and awesome vocals to mix and you have a winner.
The vocals are at least pretty different than what you usually get. U belongs to the relatively rare class of female vocals in extreme metal. She's also, without a doubt, one of the best. She can do it all: scream, grunt, growl, and pretty much anything else you can name. In comparison with the second MergingMoon album, her vocals here are a lot tamer and more typical for extreme metal, but that makes sense. This isn't weirdo progressive melodeath/metalcore after all. Regardless, U does a fantastic job behind the mike and definitely is a large asset to the album being as good as it is.
On the instrumental front, I find that the band strikes a great balance between melody and death metal. There are plenty of legitimate death metal riffs in here, so you're not smothered in tons of frilly noodling. On the flip side, the album is certainly pretty melodic, so there's all the catchy guitar leads and solos that you'd expect from melodeath. It's pretty accessible to people from both sides of the melodic death to pure death metal spectrum.
To be quite honest, the album being a tad one-dimensional isn't really a big deal when every song kicks a lot of ass. I personally find the songs that lean a little more on the death metal side of the spectrum (Creature of in the Dark is probably my favorite track thanks to the mean death metal riffs in it) a little stronger, but truly there's never a large deviation in quality. After hearing one song, you've basically heard them all, but is that really a bad thing? You get nicely-varied, high octane furious drumming that doesn't overdo the double kicks or blast beats. You get tons of awesome dueling guitar riffs and leads. You get some fantastic, shredding solos from both guitarists. All in all, it's just good quality, pummeling melodeath.Rating: 85/100