Review Summary: Mostly killer, little filler, Devildriver delivers another great performance that a lot of modern metal bands only wish they could keep up with.
Dez Fafara is a man on a mission: To get rid of the nu-metal itch. As most of you are aware, Coal Chamber was his first spotlight band during the heydays of the nu-metal genre. When nu-metal decided to take a wrong turn into rap-metal territory, most bands were left with a stigma of sorts and simply couldn’t shake the monkey off their backs when the metal community decided to turn hostile, trying to forget the mess that the genre had become. Fafara would regroup quickly after the dreaded last Coal Chamber album Dark Days
and form Devildriver. Still, Fafara was plagued on DevilDriver’s self-titled debut by the nu-metal bug that was further etched into his psyche by critics who criticized him for continuing to wave the Coal Chamber flag. It was in 2005 when Fafara, with a whole new line-up, channelled all of his anger into The Fury of Our Maker’s Hands
which garnered the band the acclaim they deserved through aggressive, groove driven modern metal. Even if this didn’t shut up critics and pessimists alike, 2007s The Last Kind Words
was even more aggressive with technical splashes of melody and a downright superb drummer (showcased on The Fury..
as well) that cemented Fafara’s stance as a true metal leader and all the while shedding off his nu-metal roots for good. Pray for Villains
is a mature extension of where The Last Kind Words
left off and brings even more of the goods this time around.
One of the first noticeable things with each track is the short crescendo intros that almost bring to mind, mini metal anthems that the band has been working to perfect over the course of their last two critically acclaimed albums. These mini anthems of sorts are driven by each band member in their own, unique way whether you are examining the band from a song writing standpoint or a standout individual performance. In terms of song writing, the band has never been so tight as a unit and they prove this through their aggressive drive and changeups that certainly throw a few curveballs. Not that this is progressive by any means, but DevilDriver know exactly how to take the listener on a truly great metal roller coaster ride. Take for example the stellar guitar work of Jeffrey Kendrick and Michael Spreitzer who play off each other with such speedy finesse during the many moments of lead/ rhythm attacks. They can also shred with the best of them without looking pretentious, keeping everything balanced and within reason. This is particularly apparent in the album highlight “Waiting for November” where guitars intertwine to create a creepy melodic intro and later, blast the listener into some full fledged melo-death courtesy of At the Gates. These two guitarists know how to really capitalize on an idea, whether it’s a riff or a solo, without overdoing it and keeping the songs intensity strong.
Also at the top of his game is drummer John Boecklin who was introduced on The Fury…
with frighteningly refreshing results. On Pray for Villains
throughout and particular cuts such as “Fate Stepped In”, Resurrection Blvd”, and “Forgiveness is a Six Gun”, Boecklin nails his performance, almost outdoing his bandmates at their best with his shifty beats and neat little fills that could put him on the cover of Modern Drummer
one day. It’s his ability to hold the band together so tight and yet deliver a standout performance, which is remarkable for a drummer in a modern metal band. Fafara is up to usual game on this but sometimes his lyrics get the best of him, creating the only real filler on this album. An example can be found in “Another Night in London”:
It takes people like you to make people like me/ It takes people like me to make people like you
His cheesy lyrics can be found scattered throughout, but this really isn’t a worry considering you will forget them instantly with his ‘very metal’ crusty rasps and the bands competent performances.
If you could summarize DevilDriver with one word, it would be ‘consistency’. Since The Fury..
, this band has been on a roll without any signs of stopping and topping each successor album with even better musicianship the next. This is metal that is refreshing and doesn’t sound rehashed that will most likely appeal to fans new to the genre as well as old. Pray for Villains
may even make a few top tens of the year as the best groove metal album within the last few years and could help project the band to an even bigger audience. A jump in popularity would not be because they have tamed down; it would be the realization that DevilDriver are at their best here and they are only going to get better with time as this album has proven. At least Fafara can finally smile, now that he has the nu-metal monkey off his back that has been chasing him for some time now. Let’s hope the next review written for their next album doesn’t mention the word ‘nu-metal’.