I remember reviewing the first DevilDriver CD, but didn’t realise that it was 10 years ago already, or that they’ve released 4 other albums for that matter. The easy part of the review for me is that their style hasn’t changed all that much. The music is still played very fast with John Boecklin pounding the shit out of his drums while guitarists Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer write some really heavy riffs which still manage to contain plenty of groove in them at the same time, new bassist Chris Towning has stepped up from being a touring muso to a recording member of the band and Dez Fafara screams to his heart’s content as he is wont to do.
“Oath of the Abyss” is a strong opening track and pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album as it blasts its forth then steadies for “Ruthless” which is slightly more groove orientated while still being littered with triplets aplenty. Far shoutier is “Desperate Times” where a sharp snare drum accentuates every heartfelt word about Dez’s sister’s cancer diagnosis.
The title track “Winter Kills” has the guitars build then maintain a steady thrash riffage as the drums roll through their paces as accompaniment in much the same way they do on “The Appetite” even though the riffs are slightly higher pitched letting them slip easily into the lead breaks without too much of a tonal change.
“Gutted” has bit of a manic Face Down feel to it with its short punchy blasts and roared chorus. “Curses And Epitaphs” is far more tempered and sombre in its timbre, but that may also be the piano under the driving guitars or the emotive lead that has just enough squeal and sustain to bring tears to your eyes. Similarly the guitar riff on “Carings Overkill” is full of bends, scale changes and runs up the fretboard, but a steady stream of anguished vocals that remain its backbone.
The intro on “Haunting Refrain” could fool you into thinking the song may turn out to be a bit ballad like, which is may be in lyrical content as it laments a love lost, but as its pace increases you know that’s not going to be the case, whereas “Tripping Over Tombstones” reminds me a little of Alice in Chains with its squawking guitars at first but then the heavier drums dispel that comparison pretty quickly.
Having never heard of AWOL Nation or the song “Sail”, I had to go look it up online to have something to compare the DevilDriver version to. Well, I guess it stays pretty true to form, with its lumbering pace but Dez’s vocals are far more raspy and expressive than the original’s, possibly owing to level he relates to the lyrics.
While it may not be pushing the envelope much, there should be little that disappoints any DevilDriver fans as it delivers their fast paced brand of aggression which shall certainly get plenty of mosh pits writhing when they go on tour to support its release.
(7/10 Marco Gaminara)