Review Summary: A beastly record that features moments of brilliance, but is also somewhat inconsistent
Pray For Villains was a great album. With that out of the way, it didn’t have much on the two albums that preceded it. Despite being consistently consistent - something DevilDriver in general are well known for - , the album featured some of the most conventional material the band has put out, songwriting wise (with a few exceptions). That wasn’t necessarily bad because Pray For Villains still sounded like the DevilDriver we know and love, but it felt like the band was holding back at various points. It seems the band members themselves were also aware of this, because Beast is the opposite to Pray For Villains.
When Pray For Villains sounded more clean, more polished than any DevilDriver record ever had before, Beast brings back the sinister vibe of the band’s sophomore record, The Fury of Our Maker's Hand. Now, I personally take The Last Kind Words, the band’s third studio outing, as my favourite DevilDriver record, but one thing that it lacks is that sinister vibe that made Fury as great as it is. From a musical standpoint, The Last Kind Words is clearly superior, featuring more technical guitar- and drumwork, smoother transitions, splendid guitar leads and the best songwriting the band has so far shown, but, until Beast, I still missed that dark vibe I got from Fury. Now, in 2011, Beast tries to tie together the band’s work so far. Production wise it is DevilDriver’s best album by far, as it’s sinister, heavy, meaty, the whole shebang, while also being the band’s most technical album, often featuring brisk, creative drum fills by Boecklin (as has become the standard for DevilDriver) and multidimensional guitar work. But where Beast doesn’t do that well is in the consistency department.
Although Beast is DevilDriver's heaviest, meanest, best-toned album to date, just like the band promised it'll be, it harkens back to the band’s inconsistent debut in that exact sense: it is the first DevilDriver record since the self-titled one to be inconsistent. In the right corner we have the blistering "Dead To Rights", the groovy "Hardened", the wah-tastic "Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)", the energetic "Black Soul Choir", the technical "Crowns of Creation", the Fury-esque "Coldblooded" and finally, "***list" - a song that features all the good qualities, like technicality, speed, groove and ferociousness, that DevilDriver posess. And in the wrong corner we have the aimless "Bring The Fight (To The Floor)", the uncreative "You Make Me Sick", the juvenile "Blur" and the repetitive "The Blame Game". The album is closed by "Lend Myself To The Night" – a cut that doesn't fit in neither corner, being just a standard DevilDriver song that is not bad, but nothing spectacular either.
Although the good songs do outweigh the dull cuts, it’s still disheartening to know that there are any unremarkable tracks on this album at all. As far as production, overall sound and experience go, DevilDriver had the possibility to make their best cd yet. Alas, they came out with an album that features some brilliant cuts (the best three being "***list", "Hardened" and "Dead To Rights"), but is inconsistent enough to be merely great (yes, merely, because DevilDriver can do even better, as they have already shown in the past). For the fans of the band it is another great pick up for sure, but for the casual listener it might be just another DevilDriver record.
If DevilDriver managed to mix together all the good elements from their various albums (attitude of Fury, songwriting of The Last Kind Words, the mature feel of Pray For Villains and the brute force of Beast), they could create an album that would be an indisputable groove metal staple. Until then though, let’s forget all about the would be’s and could be’s, and enjoy Beast for what it is - a great sounding, if somewhat inconsistent metal album that packs a serious punch.