Review : SARAH JEZEBEL DEVA – "A Sign of Sublime"

Sarah Jezebel DevaA Sign of Sublime
Release Date: 2010Aug24 (US)
Label: Candlelight Records
Rating: 1.5/5

I cannot see how music like this gets green-lighted.  Actually, that’s the half-truth; I just think the reasoning is so despicable, that it makes me irritated at the industry.  This is a project that looks good on paper, but just falls apart in the process.  Has Sarah Jezebel Deva performed with Cradle of Filth in the past?  Yes: both in-studio and live.  Did many of her band members also play in CoF?  Yes: bassist Dave Pybus is still in the Filth, plus keyboardist Martin Powell played alongside him in that band and Anathema for years.  So what, then?  It ought to be kinda symphonic, kinda gothic, right?  I ask these questions because they were my presumptions, and not necessarily negative ones!

Sarah Jezebel Deva brims with a pretension wielded by charlatans, and for poor reason.  Every syllable feels digitally sandblasted and polished, requiring as much effort to pretty up as her promotional photos.  I cannot believe she even posed with a mask on the album cover—unconscious metaphor, anyone?  The album actually presents visual coding to warn the listener that this artist disguises themself in order to be made palatable.

The best parts of the better songs—such as the title track, or “Your Woeful Chair”—still suffer from poor mixing and sloppy takes, but at least you can see underlying potential.  Worse are tracks like “She Stands Like Stone”, where Deva spends half the time straining for notes that end in a half-cracked breath.  Elsewhere, the stabs at grandiosity become self-inflicted wounds:  “Genesis” is yet another skippable, superfluous intro; “The Devil’s Opera” is a half-baked attempt at exploring Deva’s operatic vocal breadth (which further exemplifies her appropriate place as backup singer); and “A Newborn Failure”—do I even need a punchline here?

Much of the album desires to be autobiographical, I’m sure.  “She Stands Like Stone”, “They Called Her Lady Tyranny”, and “Bitch” beg for conviction, but come across forced.  And “Daddy’s Not Coming Home” shamelessly appeals to tweeny heartstrings with the lamest lyrics on the album—a pathetic closer.  This is a surprising statement to hear if you are still making your way through A Sign of Sublime, but her lyrics actually get more juvenile.  “Your Woeful Chair” is the place where she most relents to the band—check the bookending instrument work—and is predictably the most listenable song here as a result.  However, SJD’s desire for the spotlight otherwise leaves her bandmates in shadow; such is the hubristic misstep that is A Sign of Sublime.

Remarkably, the cover of “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks actually comes across weaker than the original… how did that happen? Isn’t this SJD album supposed to be metal at heart?  Vanity projects like this literally exist in vain, in more ways than one.  Musicians may not stop making them, but we can possibly dissuade future futility by simply refusing to purchase.

FCC OK
Try: 2, 7

01. Genesis
02. A Sign of Sublime
03. She Stands Like Stone
04. The Devil’s Opera
05. They Called Her Lady Tyranny
06. The Road to Nowhere
07. Your Woeful Chair
08. A Newborn Failure
09. Daddy’s Not Coming Home
10. Bitch

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