Released: 2007, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It’s taken three albums but it seems like DevilDriver has finally found its niche. The band’s self-titled 2003 debut still carried some unpleasant shreds of vocalist Dez Fafara’s former band Coal Chamber, but THE FURY OF OUR MAKER’S HAND two years later was a huge step in the right direction as the band tinkered with the formula and found its own identity. On the all-important third album, THE LAST KIND WORDS, DevilDriver has concentrated more on writing well-crafted songs and focused less on an unflattering attempt at acceptance by the metal masses. The band’s forced we’re-so-heavy-please-like-and-accept-us approach has finally become secondary to writing strong, memorable songs. Landing Jason Suecof (Chimaira, God Forbid) and Andy Sneap (Megadeth, Nevermore) for production and mixing duties, respectively, THE LAST KIND WORDS boasts crisp, clear sound with everything set perfectly and providing plenty of thrust for the band’s trademark grooves and Fafara’s unrelenting brutal vocals. The “new and improved” guitar pyrotechnics of Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer really sizzle, too, and with scads of hook-filled melodies to offset the blistering ferocity throughout, there are a lot more doors that could open for DevilDriver because of this release.
“Not All Who Wander Are Lost” is monstrously heavy with big riffs and Fafara’s instantly recognizable bark hammering through. The rolling drums of John Boecklin and fluid basslines of Jon Miller settle in for one of those tasty grooves that DevilDriver has become known for. “Clouds Over California” and “These Fighting Words” combine aggression with accessibility as Fafara’s harsh bellow thunders across everything but with fiercely melodic guitar runs to reel listeners in. “Horn of Betrayal” boasts an impossibly infectious bridge, a majestic, melodic death-influenced dual guitar flourish and Boecklin’s rifle range double bass attack. Fafara’s throaty growl and some flashy chops from Spreitzer and Kendrick make “Monsters of The Deep” one of DevilDriver’s heaviest songs to date and the rumbling intro is like coming under cannon-fire provided by Miller and Boecklin who lock into a satisfyingly thick, meaty groove. “Tirades of Truth” bristles with a moshpit-ready, thrash-based riff-o-rama that will have necks snapping and heads banging before adding a few pinched guitar squeals to the mix. Throwing a curveball on closing track “The Axe Shall Fall,” a Hammond B3 organ gives a seventies arena rock feel that is so far out of place, it actually works.
DevilDriver has always been Dez Fafara’s baby without question, but the band just sounds so much more…complete…on THE LAST KIND WORDS. It’s almost as if Fafara has loosened his grip on the leash a little and allowed the rest of the guys to play around a little more on the songs and the result is fantastic. This is DevilDriver’s most accessible album to date but they have done so without sacrificing any of the heaviness they have coveted all along. Of course, THE LAST KIND WORDS will face its share of scrutiny as many closed-minded individuals still cannot get beyond the fact that Fafara was once in Coal Chamber, but the fact remains, this is going to be one of the best modern metal albums to come along this year and should finally put to bed the parallels drawn between Dez Fafara’s current and former bands.
KILLER KUTS: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” “Clouds Over California,” “Horn of Betrayal,” “These Fighting Words,” “Monsters of The Deep,” “Tirades of Truth”