Album Review: Dehd – Flower of Devotion

[Fire Talk; 2020]

There’s something incredibly straightforward about Chicago trio Dehd. Their songs fly with the crow on the most direct path to your strongest emotions. Musically, too, their hooks are either boisterously eager to nestle into you, or to lay low, as if contemplating their own sense of self. Either way, on their third album, Flower of Devotion, Dehd have found the antidote to whatever might be ailing you. 

Emily Kempf’s vocals are something of a revelation here, her range traversing the space from high-pitched yelps to the deep cavernous wails of hollowness and loss. She seems to give these tracks an agelessly retro and indefinable quality. The crackling “No Time” could easily be from Grease, while the twitchy “Loner” has the post-modern sensibilities that soundtrack our present sense of future-nostalgia and our nervous breakdowns.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on “Letter”, with its space-age synths that trickle in before Kempf saunters along with her tremulous voice and sense of power that the ex has over future relationships. The opening track “Desire” sees Kempf and guitarist-vocalist Jason Balla descend into somewhat of a screaming match – but it just so happens to be the most melodic fight you’ve heard in a while.

The old romance between the two makes for some of the album’s frankness and the his ‘n’ hers delivery provides these moments of clear ablution. That said, Kempf is the draw here. While Balla’s drone on “Month” mimics the repetitive nature of time and feelings, there’s a sense that without Kempf’s fairground ride of a voice Dehd would be just another surf-rock band. With her, however, they appear to be growing into something far more interesting. 

The pure power and energy that’s imbued in each of these songs is perfect for a live environment and there’s a sincere hope that Dehd get the opportunity to tour this album. The band’s crisp, no-nonsense approach filters into every aspect of Flower of Devotion and it makes for a heady, light-hearted escape from the complications of the world today. Sometimes it’s nice to hear someone else simply say “I feel myself falling apart” and nod in agreement. Wherever Dehd go next, let’s hope they remember to take the simplest path there.