DevilDriver: Winter Kills

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DevilDriver: Winter Kills
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DevilDriver: Winter Kills
Groove Metal
Napalm Records
August 27th, 2013
Release length: 50:53
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Since they hit the scene, DevilDriver has been rather hit or miss among the Metal community, especially as of late. Pray for Villains was a bit rough to get into due to the direction they took the music in, and Beast was a rather typical album that didn’t stick out much at all. For 2013, the now Melodic Death meets Groove Metal unit returns with their sixth album, Winter Kills. Is this DevilDriver‘s return to glory, or is it another good, yet far from unique recording?

As the release date for Winter Kills neared, DevilDriver released a lyric video for “Ruthless,” and it wound up splitting many fans down the middle. The song is catchy, though far more upbeat than the cheesy lyrical content really permitted, especially right at the start with the hollow drumming rhythm that sounds a bit like bones clattering when the guitars kick in, followed by a scream that shows the band simply wasn’t taking it seriously. It’s a fun song, but far from a highlight of the album, though not the only one to go in this direction. “Sail” is a bit of an emotional train wreck in a negative way. While the chorus is catchy thanks to solid melodic hooks, the main verses are simple, somewhat haunting, but again find corny lyrics at work that look at depressing topics such as suicide and end each set with just blaming it on “his ADD, baby!” to the point that, by the end, you might feel a bit embarrassed with how Emo it ends up sounding. The additional clean female vocals, however, are a nice touch for how minimal and background they end up being.

But, those two aside, Winter Kills is as heavy and hostile as it gets when you think of DevilDriver. “Oath of the Abyss” starts off with a creepy introduction, which it also ends with to establish the various environments of the album. The crisp drums really push the generally mid-tempo pace of the track, and the layered shouting vocals really give the commanding and heavy riffs some extra bite, especially during the melodic chorus that doesn’t lose its edge, showing a hint of Southern influence similar to Lamb of God or Pantera in the process. “Tripping Over Tombstones” also finds the drumming a strong focal point to the intensity of the song, though it does end up a bit on the basic side. The atmosphere has essentially been stripped, but does make for a solid mixture of Groove Metal with some melody here and there among some Metalcore elements that do crop up through the album from time to time.

“Desperate Times” picks the pace up a bit with material that is impossible to not bang your head along to. The authority on display is matched with some moving melodic riffs, almost ushering in a ray of sunlight to the downtrodden and pissed off main verses that makes it one of the most memorable of the album. There are some breakdowns towards the end that don’t need to exist, which sadly does hault the track a bit before it wraps up. “The Appetite” starts off with a great deal of energy and solid melodic riffs that throw back to the richness and enthusiasm of their previous single “Clouds Over California,” having some twanging bass notes that manage to come through a bit more than normal to grab the listeners attention. It does thin a bit for the verses and bridges, but even when things slow down, the performance remains thick and aggressive, especially during the tight, and really impressive guitar solo.

Aside “Ruthless” and “Sail,” Winter Kills is one of the best entries into the DevilDriver catalogue to date. Some tracks do become more traditional towards the end, but even those still demand your attention and will have you at least bobbing you head along to the infectious groove. It’s a shame the band didn’t put more emphasis on the darker atmospheres, but some of the melodic touches are surprisingly memorable, and just add more aggression to the mix. Winter Kills won’t really convert any new listener from the naysayers, but it will definitely appease their loyal fanbase, especially those let down by the group’s recent offerings. If “Ruthless” had you on the edge about buying this album, just forget its existence, as there’s nine other solid DevilDriver tracks that beat you into submission and have you coming back for more in no time.

01. Oath of the Abyss – 5:45
02. Ruthless – 4:17
03. Desperate Times – 4:16
04. Winter Kills – 5:04
05. The Appetite – 4:55
06. Gutted – 3:35
07. Curses and Epitaphs – 5:14
08. Caring’s Overkill – 4:42
09. Haunting Refrain – 5:07
10. Tripping Over Tombstones – 3:45
11. Sail – 4:12
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

DevilDriver (band)
DevilDriver

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records via Freeman Promotions.