On paper, the Folk music singer/songwriter Danny Kiranos’ releases as Amigo the Devil shouldn’t have anything to do with the world of Metal music. But once you start listening to the heavy, dark sound Kiranos first introduced to most of the world with his 2018 album Everything is Fine, the connections become a bit clearer — if not musically, then certainly spiritually.
The heaviness in Amigo the Devil’s music is found in Kiranos’ blisteringly soulful vocal delivery and captivating lyrics, which compellingly explore the dark corners of human consciousness. Amigo the Devil has emerged as one of the leaders of the so-called “Murder Folk” movement, a genre that also includes like-minded contemporary Roots acts like The Devil Makes Three and Harley Poe. But all of those artists are merely advancing a Folk music tradition that goes back centuries — “murder ballads” are a foundational element of “Americana” that predate America.
Amigo the Devil’s earlier work used the murder ballad approach most literally, with lyrics from the point of view of modern serial killers like Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer. After three EPs that explored that morbid terrain, Kiranos turned more inward. But that’s not to suggest that the previous work was void of self-examination. Looking at the world through the eyes of a deeply disturbed killer is just a different means of dissecting the human psyche. On Everything is Fine, Kiranos comes from a more introspective place, which can sometimes be even more disturbing.
Given the pitch-black tone of the lyrics, it’s sometimes surprising how beautiful Amigo the Devil’s can be. But it can also be full of jagged edges. Though Kiranos usually performs live alone with his acoustic guitar and banjo, on Everything is Fine he’s joined by musicians like Brad Wilk, the powerhouse drummer from Rage Against the Machine. The album was also produced by Ross Robinson, who is known for his work with bands like Korn and Slipknot.
Still, the Metal fans who dig Amigo the Devil’s music aren’t coming for the sonics — Kiranos creates an emotionally theatrical world with his music that transcends genre specifics. Its darkness is for everyone.