Review Summary: Despite all of the blast beats, frantic guitar and nasty vocal work, Beast fails to hide the problems that have haunted DevilDriver for some time
You get the impression that no matter how extreme DevilDriver go and how refined their sound becomes, they have ever been able to leap out of a crowd. Their self-titled debut was awash with mediocrity, almost to the point of boredom and 2009 effort “Pray for Villains” seemed to ramp the speed up, yet loose the punch present by the bucket load in 2007’s “The Last Kind Words”. So, on their fifth album in 8 years DevilDriver return with “Beast”, full of groove, attitude and menace, but once again failing to lift the band to the level you feel Mr Fafara has always wanted to achieve.
The key problem with “Beast” is that it lacks staying power once you progress beyond the third or fourth listen, although one could argue that this has been typical of all of the band’s releases to date. While opener “Dead to Rights” crashes into life with its opening snare work and guitar fiddling akin to Meshuggah’s latest effort, from here on in the record never really picks itself up, meaning the atmospheric, chilling opening guitar’s and apocalyptic chorus of the album’s best track “***list” fail to lift their heads above the sea of mediocrity surrounding it.
Most songs save on or two open with the same style of strange, keyboard driven industrial sounds, before some rapid drum and guitar work replace them. It sounds pretty good when the band then mix up the remaining song, but when they refuse to do so efforts such as “Blur” and “Crowns of Creation” turn out to be much more forgettable than they initially seem to suggest.
Another point which should be raised is the continued nu-metal inspired lyrics of Dez Fafara which, while suiting the mood of the album perfectly are sometimes hilariously bad. Just take “Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)” as a prime example...
It's not gonna stick
Tape won't mend a broken heart
and some things you just can't fix”
Despite the fact that Fafara is shouting about what the album makes out to be, it seems as if he is unable to break away from his past and make the fully fledged split from his previous band “Coal Chamber”, perhaps best known for producing one cracking song (Loco) and then producing a ton of other, mediocre stuff.
To criticise the frontman delivery-wise would be unfair, as he sounds as angry as ever (key to the DevilDriver recipe) but it feels as though the rest of the band don’t really pull their weight to make up for the poor lyrical content. “Coldblooded”, released as the second song which is somewhat odd seeming it is easily the worst on the album seems to promise much, with its industrial openings, yet devolves into one stagnant track that is decidedly middle of the road in both execution and instrumentation. The rest of the album then plays out in an unforgettable experience, save for one hidden gem. “Black Soul Choir” may not be the fastest, heaviest or the best song on the album but its lead guitars and rapid fills down the drum kit give it an undeniable catchiness, and make it sound as if it was listed straight from one the bands best effort to date “The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand”.
It really is a shame that “Beast” turns out to be quite as disappointing as it is. While the band have arguably created one of their bests songs to date in the monstrous sounds of “***list” and the hardcore-inspired ferocity behind “Dead to Rights”, there is actually very little left that would encourage you to come back for a second listen. It is nowhere near a terrible release, but it lacks the sinister vibe of “Fury...” and “The Last Kind Words”, meaning that if you hated the band before, then this isn’t going to change your opinion whatsoever. If you’re a fan, you’ll doubtless have already picked this up.
1. Dead to Rights
4. Black Soul Choir