Feb 222011

(NCS contributor BadWolf weighs in with his review of the new album by DevilDriver — which debuts today in its official release.)

The American melodic metalcore wave was (can we say “was” now? I think we can) unstable. The bands that, to me at the time, seemed like the true spearheads of the genre, the artistic and energetic studs, fell off the map fast. Killswitch had two back-to-back classics, one after a lead vocalist swap, and then became lost in their own shtick. Trivium (whose Ascendancy record is the wave’s crest as far as I’m concerned) became lost in other people’s shtick. As far as I’m concerned, all As I Lay Dying had was shtick in the first place. Shtick and lots of frosting to cover up the sour Christian taste.

Half a decade later and on the same day, two bands I had pegged for second tier at best are releasing two consistent records. Slow and steady wins the race; both are solid. Andy Synn’s taking on Darkest Hour’s new record (here), so I’m going head to head with DevilDriver’s Beast.

It is one fun fight. Darkest Hour write breakup records, pure and simple. So what kind of records do DevilDriver write? Workout records. And the best thing I can say about and to describe Beast is that it makes me want to pump iron and hit things for its entire duration.  (more after the jump, including a track to hear . . .)

Its predecessor Pray for Villains did not make me want to do very much. Beast is a step up: It has in general faster tempos (the record is still mid-paced through and through, double-bass pedal notwithstanding) and a more powerful groove.

This record very much wants to be Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven with better melodies—at moments, it succeeds. Both records give me the impression that their vocalists (in this case Dez) are about three inches away from my face screaming at me like my own personal trainer. Every lyric is straightforward, macho, somehow juvenile, but empowering enough to appeal to me.

The strongest change is a slight (very slight) return of the atmospheric elements present in DevilDriver’s ugly and problematic self-titled record. Here, there are more guitar effects than samples, which is a definite improvement. DevilDriver know how to set a mood when pressed.

The trick to this sort of approach to album-making (regular releases with similar-sounding songs; the AC/DC-meets-The Black Album approach) is in the songs themselves. Beast does not have a “Clouds Over California”, but it has stronger songs in general.

The best songs on the record, clustered about 1/3 and 2/3’s in, manage to combine the atmospheric elements—intros and bridges—with strong songs. My choice cuts would be “Shitlist” (perhaps the best of the bunch), “Coldblooded”, and “Blur.” It’s worth noting that, in general, the shorter the songs are, the stronger they are; “Blur” is the exception.

This is a strong release form a band with remarkable longevity, so ask yourself—how do I feel about owning a record where the strongest songs are called “Shitlist,” and have choruses like “I don’t know you, but I fucking hate you”? Your call.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For your listening pleasure, here’s one of BadWolf’s “choice cuts” of Beast for you to stream:

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Shitlist.mp3|titles=DevilDriver: Shitlist]

  43 Responses to “DEVILDRIVER: BEAST”

  1. Ooh, I’m definitely enjoying that song! Intro is fuckin’ kick-ass! And I can’t help but feel Dez has one of the most convincing ever Death Metal vocals. His open throat screams are simply majestic!

    However, I do disagree with you comparing Devildriver to those American Metalcore bands of the past. DD isn’t Metalcore! At least it hasn’t been since The Last Kind Words (and I can’t judge before, because I haven’t heard there earliest releases).

    In any case, it seems I will have to buy this fucker as well, Shitlist managed to convince me of that much. Like I haven’t bought enough records lately.

  2. At the risk of sounding like a meathead, I agree 100% about DevilDriver’s sound lending itself very well for workout music. Despite the fact that I like what I’ve heard a lot more than Pray for Villains, this record doesn’t seem like it’ll be able to touch The Last Kind Words.

    • Meathead metal! Perhaps you have coined a new sub-genre label. I found this definition of “meathead” at The Urban Dictionary: “A male who drives a lifted truck, wears Tapout clothing, follows UFC, wears shades and a hat (sometimes backwards), listens to metal, has a submissive, blonde girlfriend. Some are muscular, others are twigs who act tough.” I myself feel like a meathead much of the time, though when I’ve discussed the possibility of a submissive blonde girlfriend with my wife, it’s been one vote for, one vote against. (Honey, if you’re reading, it’s just a joke.)

      • 5FDP is the very definition of meathead metal. And Ivan Moody would be proud of Dez’s lyrics on this album..

        • Excellent example — and to be clear, I wouldn’t put DD alongside 5FDP in a million years. DD is MUCH better, and I wouldn’t brand them with the meathead-metal label anyway.

  3. The Last Kind Words was and is a great album, I like most was not overly impressed with Pray For Villains as a follow up. And for what seems like to be like a trend on this thread, I often slam the DevilDriver on down at the gym, I have all their albums and from what I’ve heard so far there is no reason to stop buying them now.
    I can’t count how many times I’ve seen them live now (including their attempt to achieve the worlds largest circle pit at Download Festival 2007), Graspop last year, Wacken this year, always impressive.

    • They put on an amazing live show — a fucking killer of a party. I wrote about my one and only live DevilDriver witnessing (about a year ago) here:

      • They are amazing live. Compared to most of what I listen to DevilDriver are nowhere near as heavy as most yet I consider one of the best bands out there, certainly not one of my favourites but I just think as a metal band they just about perfect as they can have something that can appeal to nearly every metal fan. Just my own opinion formulated while to The Last Kind Words once.
        Speaking of epic circle pits, have you ever seen Heaven Shall Burn live? If not check out some You Tube footage of them performing at Wacken either in 2007 or 2009, they are insane……….and I’m sure they will be again this year at Wacken.

        • I’ve seen HSB live, though in a Seattle club that holds about 300 (one of the benefits of living here). Of course, there were circle pits, but nothing even remotely approaching those videos you’re talking about, which are amazing, like this one at Wacken 07:

          • OH MY GOD
            THAT LOOKS FUN!!!

            • If you can get hold of their “Bildersturm (Iconoclast II)” DVD you can see perhaps the greatest wall of death ever, as it starts… and hits… and as the camera pulls back you just see wave after wave of more people heading inwards. It’s a veritable tsunami of people and it just keeps going!

              Beautiful sight.

  4. I can’t think of the Lead singers name but Devil Driver vocals is shits all over the Coal Chamber vocals.

    devil driver all the way!

  5. I’m going to say something controversial…

    As I Lay Dying are on a btter upward trajectory, in terms of direction and artistically, than Devildriver, who’ve simply embraced being Pantera’s more melodeath/metalcore offspring. Although not necessarily badly.

    • AILD are re-writing their own debut’s remix album over and over and over again…

      O wait, that’s like 99% of metal, my bad!!!

      • Afraid I’m with Andy on this one. I’m plenty happy with the DD album, and it’s a step up from Pray For Villains, which was a let-down, but I do think AILD’s last album included some songs that evidenced interesting development. Some great songs on that one. (OK, let the shit fly now.)

        • The most brutal from AILD’s latest, CONDEMNED. But overall the The Powerless Rise did seem to repeat itself through the songs.

  6. Wow, for the 1st time I agree 100% w/ everyone else’s comments! I love DevilDriver, and I feel like this one picked up exactly where The Last Kind Words left off. I think these guys are great and this record is totally badass! Good job dudes!

    • I’m just finishing a second spin through the album, and appreciating it more. Like BadWolf, I’m really getting stuck on “Shitlist”. That riff at about 2:20 and the solo that follows — fuckin sweet.

      • The best way to listen to it is to curl your lip with that “something smells like shit” face and headbang on the downbeat…

        • What a coincidence! That’s exactly what I’m doing! 🙂

          • I can’t hack shitlist. The petty “someone just spilled my pint” aggression just ruins it for me.

            The last 3 tracks are probably the best imo, including the cover.

            • I think that’s why I like Shitlist. 🙂 From Dez’s Revolver interview about the album: “The record is extreme. And it attacks from start to finish. If you liked [2007’s] ‘The Last Kind Words’, this is like that on steroids and crank, driving a Buick Skylark 200 miles an hour straight to Vegas. I felt like I was waking up and experiencing a moment of clarity that brought out all these pissed off, negative emotions. It’s an all-out release of pain.”

              • I’d actually say this album was less extreme than TLKW. t just doesn’t have that shock factor in that it doesn’t hit as hard, possibly because the melodies simply aren’t as sharp, and therefore strikes me as being a bit more lumpen.

                When it goes for “extreme” it generally just makes me want to put on The Great Southern Trendkill.

                And I actually like this album, I do, but think that DD have pretty much embraced their own rut now.

            • I truly feel like that petty aggression is what the record is ABOUT. As in that’s what the title evenr efers to.

              Which is why, even though its fun to listen to, I’m not in love with it.

  7. God-fuckin’-damnit this song is delicious! Spinning it at home on a proper stereo now and it tears my head off. I couldn’t help myself, I just HAD to order it straight away. Fuckin’ fifth album in two weeks or something, and the stupid thing is that I’m paying for postal charges for each one, because each next album just seem to put his head up before I’ve ordered the previous one.

  8. Anyone think the best song is Black Soul Choir? and when the best song on an album is a cover you’re in trouble…

    DD peaked with the first half of The Last Kind Words, but I still quite like this album despite the lack of catchy melodies, bloated album length (again), and borderline nu-metal angsty lyrics.

    As for the “American melodic metalcore wave”/NWOAHM I still hold a lot of interest in the scene. I’m eagerly anticipating the new Unearth album due this year, and hopefully new albums from God Forbid, Chimaira and Shadows Fall aren’t too far away.

    • “Anyone think the best song is Black Soul Choir? and when the best song on an album is a cover you’re in trouble…”

      Stop stealing my opinions!

      By which I mean, yes, I agree.

      I’ve got an on-again, off-again column on the backburner doing a “Where Are They Now” style round up of all the NWOAHM greats. Should probably get round to finishing it before any of them release a new album!

      • Black Soul Choir just took me by surprise, on my first spin and after 9 very similar sounding tracks, it kind of just stood out as being different and very memorable. It doesn’t try to be flat out fast and heavy, it’s just a very well composed song and that’s my major gripe about the album: there is no need for DD to force the heaviness and speed at which they have done on this album because the song writing has taken a back seat (once again). So good to see you agree with it being the best track.

        Oh, and that column would be a must read for me.

    • The issue is, even if it is a very creative cover, it’s inferior to the original.

      but 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand are some of my fav non-metal acts, so i am very biased.

  9. I found this as a promo copy lying around the other night, gave it a spin. Production is flat and nothing to note, vocals are trying something else at least but leave you wanting, structures and riffs are for too straight-forward and without any real feeling. Thanks for the coverage, you guys rule and keep me in my place, haha.

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