The first half of DevilDriver’s double album Dealing with Demons was released in 2020, an ambitious follow-up to their 2018 Outlaws ‘Til the End Vol. I that covered country artists ranging from Willie Nelson to Johnny Cash. Since then, the band has undergone some lineup changes.
Guitarist Neal Tiemann, bassist Diego Ibarra and drummer Austin D’Amond have all exited, replaced by guitarist Alex Lee (Bonded By Blood), drummer Davier Perez (Pit Fight Demolition) and returning original bassist Jon Miller. However, Dealing with Demons Vol. II was recorded at the same time as Volume I, between July 2018 and February 2019.
That means the two albums, produced by Steve Evetts (Suicide Silence, The Dillinger Escape Plan) are similar sonically and musically, though there are some differences. The main one is that overall, Dealing with Demons Vol. II is even heavier and more angst-ridden that its predecessor, though there’s no shortage of groove or melody.
Opener “I Have No Pity” showcases the guitars for the first 45 seconds or so before Dez Fafara’s potent vocals kick in. Catchy melodies contrast the heaviness, which is the template DevilDriver has perfected over the past two decades.
The album’s lyrical theme of dealing with Fafara’s demons is exemplified in “Mantra,” one of the record’s heaviest tracks. Certain to become a live favorite with its groove and memorable “this is a witch’s mantra” chorus, it also namechecks the album title with the line “What we do in the dark comes circling back, dealing with demons.”
Looking at track titles, one would probably guess that “Bloodbath” would be an intense song, and it lives up to its name with pummeling drums and a call to become the hunter and not the prey. That extremity lasts until nearly the end of the song before it pulls back in the last ten seconds for a mellow ending.
There aren’t a whole lot of surprises on the album, unlike the first half’s “Wishing,” which has Fafara incorporating some melodic singing alongside his usual intense growls. “Nothing Last Forever” does have some spoken word parts that add some variety to the proceedings.
Another diverse song is “Through the Depths,” with its melodic beginning transitioning to a brief black metal influenced section before the groove engages. They also add symphonic atmosphere, giving it a cinematic touch. One of the best songs on the album is the penultimate track “If Blood is Life,” with memorable riffs, crushing grooves and an interesting guitar solo.
Taken as a whole, Dealing With Demons is 20 songs clocking in at about 75 minutes, with a nice flow between Vol. I and II. It features outstanding guitar work from Tiemann and Mike Spreitzer, who I think is one of metal’s more underrated axemen, along with Fafara’s passionate and distinctive vocals. If forced to pick, I’d give a slight edge to Volume I, but there’s also plenty to like with Dealing with Demons Vol. II.