Devildriver – Winter Kills (Napalm)

Sunday, 25th August 2013
Rating: 7/10

Good grief does Dez Fafara sing a lot. The off-again/on-again vocalist of nu metal jokers Coal Chamber seems to be unaware of the band he has behind him in Devildriver, for Winter Kills (the group’s sixth album) is more of a Fafara vocal marathon than a veritable death/thrash outing. Could it be the singer was so used to having subpar musicians with him in Coal Chamber that subconsciously he feels the need to compensate? That shouldn’t be the case – Devildriver has been active for a decade now, but as they say, old habits die hard. (So do nu metal retreads.)

Compressed and compartmentalized like their previous efforts (2011’s Beast had its moments, mind you), the pacing of Winter Kills is that of constant churn, so in that, Fafara’s vocals are the proverbial pace car, while his band rides toward the middle of the pack. It’s really a shame – the couplings on “Ruthless” and melodic thrust on “Desperate Times” are top-notch; bountiful, precise, and quick on their feet. It’s actually like that for most of the album’s songs, most notably the sonic pounding “Carings Overkill” hands out, but you have to contend with ‘ole Dez rambling over everything. At some points, the man barely takes a breath between verses and choruses (hooray for Pro-Tools cut-and-paste jobs!), so it’s suffocating, essentially. And no, there’s no pre-existing nu metal bias here either; Fafara has a distinct voice and makes generally wise choices, but backing off here and there would do the band’s songs a tremendous service.

Ten years in, and it’s still hard to read where Devildriver stand in today’s extreme metal landscape. All things considered with the past (i.e. pre-Devildriver bands), there’s yet to be this groundswell to push them to the next level…or down to the bottom. They very much sit there, releasing an album every other year, ones that sound much like the effort before them. Guess it’s better than the alternative. Hint hint.

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