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Album Review: DEVILDRIVER Winter Kills

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No matter what you might think of the band, their style or the evolution of their mainman Dez Fafara since his early days earning gold records with Coal Chamber, you cannot deny the force with which Devildriver command attention. Their approach to music could never be described as nuanced, more a brutish frontal assault than a precision sniped shot from a bell tower, and attempting to find some flowery words to describe the latest entry in the history of Devildriver bears no fruit.

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Graduating from their nu metal history never proved easy for Devildriver, more so in legacy than songwriting. By the time they had released The Fury of Our Maker’s Hands, fans of the old style knew that the band had definitely moved on from their roots, yet with such an enigmatic mastermind like Fafara the separation between old and new pushed away purist metalheads who fought to stay as far away from the ghosts of the past as possible.

With every subsequent release Devildriver speeds further away from their old sound and becomes more intense, more focused and unbridled. Their song writing style became an attempt to prove they can play faster, harder, louder than they had done previously, trying to outrun their own ghost and transform into something less ethereal and more substantive, a race only being run with themselves. With five albums under their belt, their audience understands exactly where that metamorphosis led.

Fast forward to their sixth album Winter Kills and it sounds like they understand who they are more than ever, comfortable with the characteristics of their brand of mayhem. You will not find shockingly different music from what they previously released, yet with the first release apart form long time label Roadrunner Records the attitude feels different. The guitar work of Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer stands out on this album, balancing a loose feel with the driving structure while the gruesome drumming of Jeff Boecklin kicks you in the chest with every song.

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Devildriver engages something more primeval in your metal brain, an inherent need to punch someone in the face, never trying to overly challenge the listener with heady lyrics or deep concepts, instead tapping into frustrations on the fleshy parts of your body, stirring instinctual responses from your lizard brain. If you look for a nuanced approach, or a thinking man’s metal, Winter Kills does nothing of the sort, but that never seemed to be the mission of this band.

The oddest thing you will find with the new record is their cover of AWOLnation’s “Sail.” In the past Devildriver’s obscure covers have made your head tilt, but this song somehow lends itself to a metal approach, it just seems strange that a popular song made it into their repertoire and you exit the album smiling about the weird end cap on such a ruthless album.

Winter Kills solidifies the already hardened legacy of Devildriver as a mainstay of modern American metal, but probably will not have new fans clamoring to buy their catalog either. The opinions about this band run deep and most people have made up their minds, yet I suggest listening again, especially if you want to start a circle pit in your living room.

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