You’ve all heard it before: some member of some not-so-extreme metal band announces that they are forming a new band that is going to be totally heavy, totally extreme, and totally metal. Furthermore, we all know how that usually ends: a lackluster album with some extreme elements, but overall is still weak when compared to the hype. In this case, the man is Dez Fafara, ex-vocalist for the defunct goth/nu-metal act Coal Chamber, who said something to that effect when announcing the formation of his new band DevilDriver (for a brief while known as Deathride).
Only this time, the resulting music more than lives up to the hype. In fact, it totally surpasses it.
Having freed himself from the restrictive binds of Coal Chamber, who had only gotten weaker following their acclaimed, self-titled debut album (a sentiment echoed by the man himself), Fafara is now free to unleash the demons and anger that dwell within his dark mind – and what a beast the result is. Combining elements of thrash, death, and metalcore with the low, yet piercing screams of Fafara that were only minimally explored with his previous band, DevilDriver’s self-titled debut is a crusher from start to finish, with no filler and a minimum of weak points.
Most listeners will be familiar with the tracks “Swinging the Dead” and “I Could Care Less”, the former being featured on the Freddy vs. Jason soundtrack, and the latter being the initial single. As one might guess, with the mighty Roadrunner marketing machine behind them, these are the two most accessible songs on the disc, and therefore a poor indicator of the rest of the material contained within. “Nothing’s Wrong” kicks the album off with a straight, up-tempo, death metal riff that really sets the tone for the rest of the album. The metalcore-type breakdown riffs near the end do go against this a bit, but it works. Likewise, “Die (and Die Now)” opens up with another death metal riff and pounding double bass, and is basically a death metal tune without the detuning and guttural growls – death metal lite, if you will. “I Dreamed I Died” is more of a metalcore tune, laying down a fat groove that may turn away more extreme minded listeners, but will inspire others to bang their heads while pounding whatever flat surface sits in front of them.
“The Mountain” is a bit more of a thrash tune, which is probably why it’s one of my favorites here, and another tune with breakdowns that may be a bit off-putting, but these are NOT nu-metal breakdowns, damnit. There are no bouncy, jump-up-and-down riffs or choruses here. I’m not quite sure where to place “What Does It Take (to be a Man)”, Fafara’s anthem for the working class, but the lyrics are right-on for anyone who’s ever worked a day in their life with more killer riffs and drumming. But the real surprise here is the album closer, “Devil’s Son”, which, in the spirit of the album opener, is just plain heavy – a little less on the death riffs, yet undeniably metal.
I’ve had this album in my hands for about two months now, and I must have listened to it at least 50 times since then, often at least once a day or several times in a row. I might have a LITTLE bias here since I was also a fan of Coal Chamber from even before their debut came out (largely due to Dez’s vocal stylings), but judging from the aforementioned replay factor, I’m inclined to discard that theory. What DevilDriver’s debut album is, ultimately is 40+ minutes of balls out METAL. I predict many will write them off based on the two early tracks, and many will not even get past the fact that there is an ex-member of Coal Chamber involved. But, that’s their loss. Easily one of my top ten of the year.