DevilDriver – Winter Kills
Release Date: August 27, 2013
DevilDriver has always been a band I could rely on when it came to providing some pretty stellar albums. Although well-known, these guys have always been able to bring an amazing energy to their music along with different styles of change. DevilDriver were a key influence in my musical tastes a few years ago as I began exploring metal. Their style of groove metal infused with moments of melodic death metal really helped form much of what I like today.
Their album previous album, Beast, was an album that I was a bit on the fence about. It was traditionally DevilDriver in a sense, but it soon became one of those albums that you just forget about after a certain amount of time. This isn’t true for their latest album, however, as Winter Kills turns things around for these guys and has brought them back onto the radar. The change to a different record label seems to have played in their favor, which in my eyes isn’t too much of a surprise.
Winter Kills starts off with “Oath of the Abyss”, which comes off as very familiar and already setting you up for what DevilDriver is known for with their sound. Their groove-laden guitar work, in-your-face vocals, and ever so known drums that effortlessly form the backbone of their sound. This track provides a great mixture of haunting and aggressiveness all in one. As one of the longer tracks, it may or may not drag you on, but it all depends on how you react to it from the start.
“Ruthless” soon follows, and was also the first track featured from the album. It very much feels like it feeds off of earlier influences of the metal genre (some may say Slayer or Pantera), which isn’t a bad thing as I enjoy this much more than those named bands. The straight up, assailing approach is continued with this track and keeps momentum going up to the title track, which mixes it up a bit.
“Winter Kills” features some interesting but very acute variation from what has been played so far. From the get go, it feels as if DevilDriver are incorporating a black metal inspired riff that also occurs in the chorus. Dez Fafara, so far, has been a key focal point (as usual) with his straight forward style. I believe he is a very competent vocalist and unique with his style as I haven’t found any singers that come close to what he does.
“The Appetite” marks the more interesting part of the album, as it seems that the entire band decides to kick it up a notch and fuse styles of their present sound with some of their older antics. The creepy introduction provides some nice variation, even with it only lasting a brief moment. After the explosive entrance that the band is known for, Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer intertwine their talents throughout with dark melodies and somewhat flashy guitar work. “The Appetite” is for sure one of the highlights of the album thus far.
“Gutted” brings about a weightier tone in a sense. Pure heaviness decimates the ears until the traditional darkened melody makes a return before the chorus sets in. This is a track that will test the durability of your neck as you’ll most likely be headbanging the entire time. Again, it seems that the band finally finds that groove that sets this release apart from Beast.
Although I’m really digging into this record, I can’t help but point out a few negatives. It seems that DevilDriver falls short of some good ideas that could really help diversify this album even further and still stay along the lines of their signature sound. Some tracks contain such a mysterious and haunting beginning but end up lost in translation as everything progresses. “Curses and Epitaphs” is a perfect example, as it seems like the idea and sound just doesn’t even make it to the end. Some may see this as a small gripe, but the album just ends up feeling choppy.
“Caring’s Overkill” is another favorite as the drum work by Joe Boecklin is probably at its best here. The mix and especially the production help greatly, thanks to producer Mark Lewis. Add in the new bassist, Chris Towning, and the “oomph” is complete. With all these elements, you can actually hear what the rhythm section is doing without feeling like you’re assaulted by guitar and vocals, which some bands are a victim of.
“Haunting Refrain”… holy crap. As mentioned before, the band seems to be a hit or miss when it comes to executing consistency with ideas and sounds, but this track just nails it on the head almost flawlessly. The ominous and subtle guitar coupled with the very well done atmosphere really has you wrap your head around it more than once. The instrumentation can be simply put as beautiful. If you had to listen to one song off of the album to be convinced, this is the one.
DevilDriver deliver another solid album that could be put on the top lists. If not those, then they definitely belong on the “Honorably Mentioned” as they have been a huge influence on myself as well as others when it comes to getting into metal. Their darkened groove style is unmatched in the present and I’m hoping these guys can progress the sound even further, as they’ve been wanting to have each record sound different to an unknown degree. Who knows what they will come up with next (hopefully something a bit more progressive) but until then, Winter Kills will have to suffice. This release may not gain many new fans, but old fans should definitely be pleased, if not intrigued.