Reviewed: November 2020
Released: 2020, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Dealing With Demons, Volume I is the eighth (ninth if we count 2018’s covers album, Outlaws ‘Til the End, also a Volume I) studio album from DevilDriver, one of the biggest names in modern US groove metal alongside the likes of Lamb of God or Machine Head.
Personally, I’ve listened to DevilDriver on and off over the years, but never that consistently. Some songs here and there, the odd full album, but I’ll admit I was never a dedicated follower. With Dealing With Demons, I think I’ve narrowed down the main reason, and it’s Dez’s vocals. They’re not the worst, not painfully bad or the like, but something about them sounds fundamentally forced and doesn’t sweep the listener up in the aggression like it should.
And there’s plenty of aggression elsewhere. DevilDriver have lost none of their furious edge over time; if anything, it has been sharpened further. Instrumentally, the album is much more solid. It’s big, ballsy and bombastic, just as it should be. Opener “Keep Away From Me” is packed with room-filling and headbang-demanding riffs, “Witches” has a classic kind of bounce that harkens back to the band’s earlier, nu-rooted days. While the album as a whole sits under the groove metal banner, the band is perfectly capable of busting out some metalcore chug or some melodeath-inspired aggression.
Still, they’re at their best when relying on forceful but catchy rhythms, most apparent in the aforementioned “Keep Away From Me” and the no-nonsense “You Give Me a Reason to Drink”. Special mention must also go to drummer Austin D’Amond, who stands as the clear MVP of this particular offering. He provides not only steady rhythms to keep everything on track, but the ability to burst out into something much more lively or aggressive when needed, and this forcefulness lends much-needed weight to the proceedings.
Dealing With Demons isn’t a radical departure of sound for DevilDriver, more of a steady on-going refinement, and even if the vocal delivery does feel like a weaker aspect in comparison to the rest, it should still be a fun ride for fans of the band’s style.