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American groove metal veterans DEVILDRIVER slam down a new batch of heavy songs in 2013, led by the fearless Dez Fafara on lead vocals. This musical unit sounds as sonically enraged and pissed off as the first day I fell in love with them. They still keep it grooving real hard, injecting melodic/death elements into their songwriting for a totally frenetic sounding listen. This reviewer didn’t follow much of the build up or background on the making of this record, so I really had no clue what to expect. New bassist Chris Towning appears on the effort, taking the spot of Jon Miller who left the band due to substance abuse issues. The album was produced by Mark Lewis, whose other credits include The Black Dahlia Murder’s “Deflorate” and Chimaira’s “Resurrection”.

Charging out the gate is “Oath of the Abyss” and the simply stellar “Ruthless”, where the shredding guitar team of Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick unleash an-all out assault on their fretboards, followed up by track three’s slamming “Desperate Times”. Each of these hard hitters perfectly brings forth the harsh landscape of pummeling drums and passionate guitar riffs that only Devildriver seems to manage with consistency more than any other band in the metal world today.

Other smoking cuts included are “Desperate Times”, “Winter Kills”, “The Appetite” and the slightly slowed down “Carings Overkill”, which has a really cool vibe to it that I just can’t shake. The guitar solo here is really top notch as well.

While this is certainly not my very favorite album by the band ever, it must be known that I have been a diehard follower of their music since they first came out a decade ago and so I am very critical when it comes down to how I compare it against past work. I’ve always enjoyed watching the growth of their musical output and the intensity in that kind of ultimate commitment to make their music indeed as “heavy” as possible but while still having melody going on so it doesn’t totally scare people off.

I think the only negative that I take away is the lackluster cover of “Sail” by indie band Awolnation. This could have been something his first band COAL CHAMBER covered, with their quirkiness they would have pulled it off more effectively. It just does not fit with the brutal Devildriver sound.

My favorite track overall, however, is the bonus track “Shudder”. This definitely should have been included on the album, in place of the totally lame cover and I would have scored the record higher by a half star at least. If you are going to do a cover, for me, you must kill it or it’s going to be a big sore thumb sticking out at the listener.


[starreview tpl=16]
DEVILDRIVER – “Winter Kills” (CD)

(Naplam Records/2013)

1. Oath of the Abyss
2. Ruthless
3. Desperate Times
4. Winter Kills
5. The Appetite
6. Gutted
7. Curses and Epitaphs
8. Carings Overkill
9. Haunting Refrain
10. Tripping Over Tombstones
11. Sail