Album Review: DEVILDRIVER Outlaws 'Til The End, Vol. 1
In following up 2016's Trust No One, DevilDriver decided to record a covers album. Eschewing typical metal band cover fare, Dez Fafara and company chose to revisit some classic outlaw country songs on Outlaws 'Til the End, Vol. 1. And while the originals are country, these arrangements are definitely metal and get the full DevilDriver treatment.
“I think real music has always gotten to me, whether it’s the blues or even real Goth music like Bauhaus and Sisters Of Mercy, as well as outlaw country greats like Johnny Cash, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, and Willie Nelson,” Fafara explains. “That stuff has always attracted me, and this is absolutely the real McCoy. The blues and outlaw country are what made rock n’ roll. They were around before rock n’ roll… and in my head, I’ve always heard these songs heavy.”
Many DevilDriver fans probably aren't familiar with the originals, and to enjoy Outlaws 'Til the End, Vol. 1 you don't need to be. But those of us a little longer in the tooth whose parents played this style of music on AM radio as we drove in the family truckster across the prairie will appreciate them a little more.
The album includes a lot of guests. Opener “Country Heroes” finds Hank 3 covering his own song more aggressively than the original. It's a little jarring to hear growling vocals from Fafara and Lamb Of God's Randy Blythe on the Willie Nelson classic “Whiskey River,” but the blast beats and ominous black metal atmosphere give it a whole different feel.
Blythe also appears on “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” as does John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash. It's a bit more melodic than some of the other tracks on the album, but there's still plenty of aggression. There is a Johnny Cash cover song as well. Lee Ving from Fear guests on “The Man Comes Around.” It may seem like an unusual choice, but Ving actually has experience in the country genre.
“Lee has a country band called Range War and when he first started in music, his mother gave him her mandolin to play, so he played country music before he ever did punk rock,” Fafara says.“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to do songs with Ozzy and some of the greats, but doing a song with Lee Ving? What can I say… he’s my ultimate hero in life. I had a Fear shirt on the first time I ran away from home, you know?”
Ving also appears on the closing track “The Ride.” Others that lend their talents to the proceedings include Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell, Wednesday 13 and 36 Crazyfists' Brock Lindow. The most accessible song on the album is Lindow and Fafara's rendition of Steve Earle's “Copperhead Road,” which includes some blazing guitar work.
While there are small doses of country flavor in some of the arrangements (like the intro and outro of Dwight Yoakam's “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”), it's overwhelmingly metal. It's one of those albums that you can tell the band really enjoyed recording, and it's interesting to hear all the different guest vocalists and musicians tackle these classic outlaw songs. Essential? No. Enjoyable? Yes. Outlaws 'Til the End, Vol. 1 is something fun to tide fans over as they await DevilDriver's next album of original material.