‘Charming Devil’ was the only HKE full-length released on Dream Catalogue after the success of ‘HK’. With a diversion to our friends over at OESB, who he released the albums ‘Omnia’ and later, ‘Dragon Soul’ with, HKE had not, until January 2018, released an album under his primary alias on Dream Catalogue for three years – and has not since. Even more bizarrely, the album took such a hard left-turn from the dreampunk-ambient and progressive electronic he had theretofore won acclaim, insultingly replaced with heavy use of abrasive digital distortion, electronic guitars, thumping hardstyle percussion and even his first foray into singing – a fractured, bitter, teeth-clenching manner that recalls Chino Moreno’s worst Deftones out-takes. It has been described by Andrew Ryce of Resident Advisor in his album review as, “A dark and desperate descent into anger and self-hatred, expressed through explosive percussion and moody vocals.”
Never originally intended to be an album of any sort during its formulation, ‘Charming Devil’ came as a spark; a brief moment on a freezing cold morning in January, near about a period of generally psychotic behaviour from the artist – such as: smashing thousands of pounds worth of Dream Catalogue vinyl and test pressings, or portraying characters such as ‘Henry Moonchild’ and ‘Martin Smith’ on Twitter for weeks on end in a form of delusional method acting. The LP ultimately arrived as an accident, with HKE piecing together a tapestry of bitter and depressive demos driven by similar feelings of hatred and despondency, all made across the tail end of 2017, in the realisation he had produced his most daring album to date without even thinking about it. With this understanding that there was an album’s worth of material ready to go, the decision was made to drop ‘Charming Devil’ as is, unrefined and unmastered, punctuating a strange era for the artist.
The root of the cover artwork was provided by Steel Diamonds within the hours that HKE decided to release the album. The artwork itself is in collaboration with HKE, who issued a red filter across it. The album was released there and then, anticipating artists like Kanye West, a known HKE enthusiast, and more recently, Bring Me The Horizon, who would provide similar efforts in the months and years following. The case could also be made for ‘Charming Devil’ as the first ‘flap’ album, or at the very least, proto-flap.