Devildriver’s new album title, ‘Winter Kills’, explores death and rebirth and how organisms can come back stronger than ever after seemingly being left for dead. It’s not hard to imagine that a little inspiration has been drawn from the band’s situation of late. ‘Winter Kills’ is their sixth album but first for new label Napalm Records. After a long association with Roadrunner Records the band are starting afresh with a new label and a new permanent bass player: Chris Towning.
So have they come back stronger?
Devildriver have become better with every release throughout their career. They have shown a real natural progression through their back catalogue, which needless to say, is better than exploding onto the scene and gradually fading away. ‘Winter Kills’ is not going to completely surprise you but it does turn up everything Devildriver to eleven. It’s brutal, hard-hitting and relentless but the real improvement is simply in the performance. The guitars on this album in particular stand out as being tighter than ever, with Kendrick and Spreitzer stealthily rising towards the top of the metal guitar pairings.
The wintery intro music may just fool you on first listen into thinking that Devildriver have opted for a new direction, but it’s not long before John Boecklin’s familiar thud starts to fade in. By the time Dez’s roar erupts for the first time on ‘Oath of the Abyss’ the guitars have already taken off like a chaotic sonic whirlwind and we are well and truly underway.
Next up, ‘Ruthless’ is one of the highlights. Starting with Fafara’s raspy roar and a bouncy, almost nu-metal, groove; it’s a slower track, but heavier for it. As the ‘Ruthless’ suggests, it’s pretty forceful, as is the title track, ‘Desperate Times’ and the lead single ‘The Appetite’. There’s no let-up, each track comes and goes like a fist to your ear drums, apart from final cover track ‘Sail’ which is a little more reflective and guitar driven. It stands out as a bit of an epic compared to the frenzied punk blasts of what has come before.
Sound wise the album retains the barrage of punk edged groove displayed on many of their records. Dez’s voice is never at the forefront of the mix and none of ‘Winter Kills’ appears over clean. There’s grit in all the tracks and not too much gloss in the production. It’s a cold and harsh sound that is only broken through when some of guitar solos take-off such as in ‘Curses and Epitaphs’.
Essentially, it’s pretty heavy with little in the way of easy listening.
So, The California Groove Machine rolls on as Devildriver keep to their strict upward trajectory. ‘Winter Kills’ sees the band deliver their familiar ferocious onslaught but with a conviction that supersedes anything that they’ve done before. The dogged touring schedule and close-knit nature of the band is translating into some great output.
We’ll no doubt see them on the road soon!