Album Review – DevilDriver / Trust No One (2016)

If Dez Fafara and his crew say we must trust no one, who are we to go against the circle pit masters of California?

Rating5

coverWhen frontman Dez Fafara and his sick crew known as American Groove/Melodic Death Metal band DevilDriver say we must trust no one, we should definitely follow their trenchant and wise advice. Cursing the clouds over California for almost 15 years, Santa Barbara’s own circle pit masters are back with their seventh studio album, entitled Trust No One (also stylized as trust no one.), another solid release by a band that, above all things, knows how to craft exciting metal music for the masses. Longtime band member and guitarist Mike Spreitzer described the album as “the record (I’ve) been wanting to write for 12 years”, while Dez stated that the album is “a vicious record filled with huge grooves and big hooks, guitar bass assery and thundering drums”.

Although not as amazing as their 2007 classic The Last Kind Words, let’s say that the music found in Trust No One, the first album since their 2013 release Winter Kills (making it the longest time span between two albums in the band’s history due to Dez reuniting with his former band, American Nu Metal act Coal Chamber), matches considerably with the words by Mike and Dez, living up to the band’s history despite all the recent lineup changes. This is their first album without original members John Boecklin and Jeff Kendrick on drums and guitars, respectively, being replaced by drummer Austin D’Amond (formerly of Chimaira) and guitarist Neal Tiemann. Chris Towning, who played bass on Winter Kills, also left and got replaced by former Static-X bassist, Diego “Ashes” Ibarra.

Opening their metallic ceremony, Testimony of Truth is as melodic and groovy as expected from DevilDriver, with the guitars by Mike and Neal sounding polished and brutal at the same time. Furthermore, when the opening track has lyrics like these, you know the band is on the right aggressive path (“The truth is I never liked you this / testimony is one of truth you’re just / a means to an end / With no redeeming thing about you / Walk in my shoes / This dead empty space / Walk in my shoes / This burdens on you!”). In Bad Deeds, the band’s traditional Groove Metal arises, crushing the listener to the sound of the harsh vociferations by Dez and the imposing beats by Austin, also sustaining a creepy atmosphere in the background no matter how violent the music gets; while My Night Sky is an old school DevilDriver composition where all instruments (including vocals) are in line with all their previous records, being therefore tailored for diehard fans of the band.

This Deception proves that when DevilDriver accelerate their music things get even more exciting, resulting in a potent circle pit generator thanks to the awesome job done by Austin on drums and the always piercing sound of their guitars, followed by Above It All, a song which we could call the epitome of American Groove Metal. Dez has another solid vocal performance leading the band’s attack, and although it’s far from being the most creative song in the world, it works quite well in the end. The first single of the album, called Daybreak, blends Melodic Death Metal with Groove Metal, with both Mike and Neal firing some blazing riffs while Dez keeps growling like a beast, whereas the title-track, Trust No One, might be one of the most intricate and harmonious compositions of the band from their past few albums. I love the vocal lines by Dez, transpiring absolute anger and hatred, as well as the song’s kick-ass guitar solo, not to mention the simple but effective message of the song, which makes total sense in modern society (“There’s always a need for violence / Slowly singing to the somber sun / Give my regards to the ones you call your angels / Dusted I’m the only one”).

devildriverThe last part of the album begins with more violence and groove in the form of Feeling Ungodly, a good composition that unfortunately falls flat after a while due to its very repetitive vocals and riffs, followed by the low-tuned bass lines and rhythmic drumming of the decent Retribution, with its second half getting more exciting and obviously adding more electricity to the final result. And finally, the band gets back to a more thrilling and raging state in the closing tune entitled For What It’s Worth, where its beautiful guitar lines and solos perfectly complement Dez’s unique barks and the always violent aura found in their music.

In summary, while many will consider this just another DevilDriver album, I personally think Trust No One is not only an important landmark in their career and an album that will keep the band alive and on fire for the next coming years, but also a solid statement that confirms Dez and Mike won’t be negatively impacted by all the changes that happened to the band recently. Quite the contrary, they were able to absorb all the negativity, go against all odds and turn adversity into high-quality heavy music. And, as already mentioned, when a band like DevilDriver tells us we should trust no one, who are we to go against them? Stay alert to every wolf in sheep’s clothing around you, keep listening to the sincere and hostile music by bands like DevilDriver, and everything else will be a lot easier in your life.

Best moments of the album: Bad Deeds, This Deception and Trust No One.

Worst moments of the album: Feeling Ungodly and Retribution.

Released in 2016 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Testimony of Truth 4:43
2. Bad Deeds 3:46
3. My Night Sky 4:28
4. This Deception 3:47
5. Above It All 3:22
6. Daybreak 4:23
7. Trust No One 4:38
8. Feeling Ungodly 3:41
9. Retribution 4:01
10. For What It’s Worth 4:31

Digipak/Limited Edition/Japanese Edition bonus tracks
11. House Divided 4:56
12. Evil on Swift Wings 4:17

Band members
Dez Fafara – vocals
Mike Spreitzer – guitars
Neal Tiemann – guitars
Diego “Ashes” Ibarra – bass guitar (live)
Austin D’Amond – drums

Advertisements

Album Review – DevilDriver / Winter Kills (2013)

Get ready for some insane heavy tunes by Californian circle-pit masters.

Rating5

Winter_kills_devildriverI know it’s a little late to talk about an album launched back in August, but the problem is that I didn’t have time to listen to Winter Kills carefully until now, and to be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of the band and the only DevilDriver album I previously had in my files was the awesome The Last Kind Words. However, I’m starting to enjoy their music more and more, especially among the “new” heavy bands available in the market, and I also noticed I’m not the only one to think like that: DevilDriver has became one of the most accepted new bands by old and demanding headbangers due to its violent lyrics, excellent instrumental and crazy on-stage performance.

The melodic opening track Oath of the Abyss has intense dark lyrics and it’s a good start to the album, albeit not as good as for example Not All Who Wander Are Lost. The following track, Ruthless, is undoubtedly the best song of the album with its amazing riffs, ruthless lyrics (just as the name of the song), and Dez’s voice in this track is as heavy as hell, which by the way is a constant in the entire album. Desperate Times can be used to explain why the mosh pits at any DevilDriver concert are so brutal, while Winter Kills, the title-track, keeps up with the speed and violence and it’s impossible not to get addicted to the chorus. “Mark my words/ There’ll be a change in the guard! / There’s frost on the sill / So now winter kills!”

DD2013Another strong track is The Appetite, which despite the stupid vide sounds ideal for crazy mosh pits, and the final solo is awesome. Your appetite for more DevilDriver will just grow after listening to this song. The weakest track of all in my opinion is Gutted: it has an extremely heavy intro, but I didn’t like the rest of it until the end. Curses and Epitaphs is more melodic than the previous tracks, with drummer John Boecklin doing an excellent job behind his set, while Carings Overkill is just filler, not a creative or interesting track at all. The last songs of Winter Kills are terrific: Haunting Refrain has a slow intro that turns into a heavy tune later on, with a magnificent guitar solo; Tripping Over Tombstones is another song that can easily take part on a “circle-pit soundtrack”; and finally Sail, a cover song from the indie band Awolnation, is a billion times better than the original song. The guitars and drums are just perfect!

The bonus tracks are also worth listening to: both Shudder and  Back Down to the Grave  are pretty heavy, and they even remind me of some songs from In Flames. The front cover is not very original, neither are the lyrics, but everything works fine when put together with the music. Frontman Dez Fafara keeps singing like a wild animal and has a very talented group of musicians with him, producing some high quality material for all generations of metalheads.

In summary, if you hate Facebook, Instagram and cameras during a Heavy Metal concert, you should be listening to this new overpowering album by DevilDriver and getting ready for monstrous circle pits in their next concert in your city. Winter Kills might not be what we call revolution in music, but it will crush your neck for sure.

Best moments of the album: Ruthless, The Appetite and Sail.

Worst moments of the album: Gutted and Carings Overkill.

Released in 2013 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Oath of the Abyss 5:36
2. Ruthless 4:09
3. Desperate Times 4:08
4. Winter Kills 4:54
5. The Appetite 4:46
6. Gutted 3:28
7. Curses and Epitaphs 5:04
8. Carings Overkill 4:33
9. Haunting Refrain 4:59
10. Tripping Over Tombstones 3:38
11. Sail (Awolnation cover) 4:04

Bonus tracks 
12. Shudder 4:03
13. Back Down to the Grave 4:44

Band members
Dez Fafara – lead vocals
Jeff Kendrick – guitar
John Boecklin – drums
Mike Spreitzer – guitar
Chris Towning – bass

Concert Review – Trivium & DevilDriver (Phoenix Concert Theatre,Toronto, ON, 09/24/2013)

A celebration of music with two of the best contemporary Heavy Metal bands from the USA on a pleasant Tuesday night in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Sylosis and After The Burial

As I don’t live exactly in Toronto, it takes a while for me to get to the city whenever there’s a concert I’m attending, especially if it’s on a Tuesday after a full day of work. Seriously, only Mondays are worse than Tuesdays for Metal concerts, like the Rock Allegiance Tour with Volbeat & HIM that screwed up my whole week! The organizers should think about that when scheduling Metal concerts to the middle of the week: we don’t have seats and we don’t just watch the concert, we participate a lot! Heavy Metal demands a lot of energy from the crowd, so please, if you’re an organizer, try to book the shows from Thursday to Saturday! Going back to the opening acts, I completely missed Sylosis (which unfortunately suffered a car accident that same night going to their next concert) and half of ATB. From what I could see, ATB was pretty heavy and the fans had a great time there, so next time they open for a band I like I’ll do my best to be there and analyze their music properly.

DEVILDRIVER

devildriver-2This was the second time I had the pleasure to see DD live (the first was back in 2011, opening for Arch Enemy), and they were even better this time. From the very first song Ruthless to the violent ending with Meet the Wretched, the leader of the band, Dez Fafara, didn’t let any single person from the crowd remain quiet. I believe he mentioned the word fuck and its variations (fuckin’, motherfucker, motherfuckin’ etc.) at least a hundred times, plus other “nice” words such as pussy and shit, demanding that everybody banged their heads all the time and almost killed themselves in the mosh pits, showing why he’s a true frontman and not just a singer. He was pretty decent in the beginning of his career with Coal Chamber, but now he’s getting better and more violent on stage, which is awesome.

I enjoy concerts at the Phoenix Concert Theatre due to the proximity with the band and the quality of the sound (and of course, it’s easy to get a beer there without the hassle of huge and slow lines), and this time it wasn’t different. All songs were really well executed by the band, which was sometimes headbanging even more than the crowd, and there was a lot of interaction between band and fans. They played a lot of songs from their new album Winter Kills (which I really want to listen to now), including a very good cover for the song Sail, from the band Awolnation, mixed with some classics such as Clouds Over California, which was my favorite from this concert. I hope I can see DD live again soon!

Setlist
Ruthless
I Could Care Less
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Before the Hangman’s Noose
Cry for Me Sky (Eulogy of the Scorned)
Oath of the Abyss
The Appetite
Hold Back the Day
Curses and Epitaphs
Sail (AWOLNATION cover)
Head on to Heartache (Let Them Rot)
Dead to Rights
Clouds Over California
End of the Line
Meet the Wretched

Band members
Dez Fafara – lead vocals
Jeff Kendrick – guitar
John Boecklin – drums
Mike Spreitzer – guitar
Chris Towning – bass

TRIVIUM

trivium-1They are heavy, they have the speed, the technique, great albums and are awesome on stage. Together with Volbeat, I consider Trivium the future of Heavy Metal. I had the chance to see them live at Heavy TO 2012, but as that was a festival and they were playing in the middle of the afternoon, they couldn’t show their full power. However, this time in Toronto they were able to provide their fans a fantastic concert! After the intro Divinity I, the band entered the stage and played three of the most complex and heavy songs of their entire career: Throes of Perdition, Down from the Sky and Becoming the Dragon, showing all of us that was going to be a special night.

Although I missed some classics such as Ember to Inferno and The Deceived in the setlist, there was a pretty good mix of songs from all of their albums, including two new ones (Brave This Storm and Strife) from their upcoming album Vengeance Falls, which sounded like old classics by the way the audience responded to them. And no matter which song they were playing, the riffs and solos were perfectly executed (I would say even better than the studio versions in most of the cases). I still believe the feeling is more important than the technique in Heavy Metal, but what the guys from Trivium do with their guitars is simply amazing.

The best songs of the night were for sure A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation (isn’t it one of the coolest song names ever?), with the crowd jumping all the time together with the band, and Shogun, a 12-minute masterpiece that sounds like if Dream Theater decided to become Megadeth or vice-versa. It can be really tricky for any band to play songs so long as that because the crowd can die at any minute, but fortunately for Trivium that wasn’t an issue at all as the fans at the Phoenix loved the fact they played Shogun.

The only (small) issues I see with Trivium now are first the drummer: I don’t know why but he sometimes seems to be out of sync with the rest of the band; and second the fact that Corey is doing 95% of the guttural vocals. Although I enjoy Corey screaming, it sounds a lot better when Matt does that. But as I said, nothing that will stop Trivium from becoming a Heavy Metal giant in the coming years, mainly due to the constant and brilliant evolution in all of their albums and to their exceptional performance on stage.

Setlist
Divinity I (tape/intro)
Throes of Perdition
Down from the Sky
Becoming the Dragon
Brave This Storm
Watch the World Burn
Strife
A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation
Kirisute Gomen
Shogun 

Encore:
Capsizing the Sea (tape/intro)
In Waves
Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr
One Winged Angel (tape/outro)

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, vocals
Nick Augusto – drums, percussion