Let‘s get to this straight away – this album fucking rips. I know “rips” is a cliched word in metal, but I honestly cannot think of a better descriptor for this thing. Rips is just what it does, and it does it well.
I’ve loved DD since the beginning. Actually, I still think their 1st album is probably my favorite of their whole catalog. There, I said it. Anyway, that was a long time ago (eeesh, I’m old) and not what I am here to talk about. DD solidified their sound straight away with their amazing 2nd album and have since not deviated much from it. Sure they went a little this way and that, but when a new DD album came out, you knew what you were getting into. Not a bad thing, but after albums 6 great albums, they were starting to get a little stale. OK, 5 great albums and whatever the hell Pray for Villains was. Ick. Back on track, they were getting a bit samey.
Then Dez announces Coal Chamber is coming back around and DD is going on hiatus. Good thing, I say. It will give them time to really refine the music and not be rushed, maybe take a few chances. Then founding drummer John Boecklin and guitarist Mike Spreitzer quit. The horror!!! One of the best metal drummers out there, who had been there from the beginning, and the guitarist that came in on their direction defining second album are gone. Uh oh … or is it? No! New blood and a bit of extra time was exactly what DD needed.
This album is DD hitting on all cylinders. For the whole album. There is not a dud on this sucker. All of the songs are really solid and have some individual identity. Yes, sometimes the relentless onslaught of ass-kickery can be a bit much, and I wish they could open it up a bit from time to time, but this is why we love Devildriver, isn’t it? I don’t want a soft song mind you, just a bit more spaciousness and to make sure each song stands a bit more apart from one another. Wax and wane a little, build and tear down.
New guitarist Neil Tiemann really ups the melodic content on this release. I mean, just listen to that epic lead on For What Its Worth or the shred-tastic ending of This Deception. I’m not sure if he wrote either one of those, but I don’t care, previous DD albums have never had leads that memorable. That was actually one of the things that always bugged me a bit about them. Many of the leads, while technically competent, just didn’t “fit” right. They always sounded off somehow, either melodically or rhythmically. No longer. They fit like a … thing that fits really, really well.
Oh, Austin D’Amond, you have some mighty big shoes to fill. Good thing you have big-ass feet. He absolutely owns his drum parts on this album. He fits right in. Though I will say he almost fits in too well sometimes. He can play like a maniac, and he knows how to work the ebb and flow of a song, I just think he may have held back a bit because he was either afraid to or directed to not deviate too far from the standard DD sound. I hope he gets a bit more leeway on the next album to really shine, because its obvious he can. Let ‘er rip man.
OK, lets check out the sound of the album for a bit. It has Mark Lewis written all over it. Articulation, space, and definition destroying overly loud mush. He’s one of the reasons this album is hard to listen to all the way through. You just get tired. I mean, his sounds are usually good, but everything is just a flat wall of noise. I’m a fan of the drum sounds he did with Coal Chamber and his very fist album with Whitechapel, but that is about it. His vocal production on this album is off a bit too. Its really bland and doesn’t live up to the rest of the instruments. Also, holy crap is that snare sound on this album one of the absolute worst things I have ever heard. It literally sounds like someone smacking a cheap closet door with a dead fish, and its SUPER loud in the mix.
Let me finish this review here. Sure, it still sounds like DD. But it sounds like DD giving a shit. I would say this is their best album since Last Kind Words. Its pretty straightforward – If you like DD and wanted to know what they sounded like with a much higher melody content and renewed energy, this is the album you’ve been waiting for. If that doesn’t sound like what you want, then this won’t do anything for you or change your mind about them. I can’t call it a classic, because its just not there, but its damn good to hear Devildriver refreshed and invigorated.