There is a reason why most Thrash Metal fans are completely turned off by its modern offshoots, and it is pretty well displayed in the early works of DEVILDRIVER, a band that has been given a lukewarm reception into the Metal world since releasing some qualifying, though not necessarily stellar Melodic Death albums. Combine the most banal elements of 90s SLAYER with the most redundant elements of early MACHINE HEAD, then maybe throw in a few token riffs paying homage to older SLAYER and the Teutonic Trio, then either tune down to ludicrously low levels or employ a muddy sounding 7 string guitar or two, and you have a rough idea as to the musical workings at play here. The worst of 90s ANNIHILATOR, the dregs of PANTERA, they all pale in comparison to the utterly monotonous and predictable results of this formula.
“DevilDriver” represents the de facto pinnacle of the Nu-Metal craze before the mainstream took on an interest in Metalcore, with all of the half-assed ideas and minimally constructed fluff that goes with it. If luck would grant the listener the luxury of a song with more than 2 riffs, it will only be in the form of a breakdown section that employs a slightly varied version of one of the two former riffs. Even when a mildly interesting idea like that KREATOR inspired tremolo riff at the beginning of “Nothing’s Wrong”, or that heavily SLAYER oriented flurry at the beginning of “The Mountain”, it’s only an occasional respite from an endless barrage of hypnotic single note chugs and groovy half-riffs. Forget about guitar solos, for those who may inquire, this band is here for radio play on this album, and can’t be bothered to put that sort of effort into turning mundane crap into something mildly listenable. Such pursuits are reserved for Dimebag Darrel and other musicians who never completely got out of the 80s.
But amidst the drab guitar work, formulaic drumming and non-existent bass, a lone impresario emerges in Brad Fafara to bring that new school wigger goodness to those who crave it. To be fair to the former front man of Mallcore extraordinaire outfit COAL CHAMBER, at least he doesn’t sound like Jonathan Davis or Mike Patton. Having said that, he often resembles that ear grating gravel pit David Draiman, but with a slight tendency towards Mike Stanne and a few other Melodic Death vocalists, albeit a pretty piss poor interpretation of the latter. A classic example is that annoying chorus to “Swinging The Dead” where the song’s title gets pounded out over and over ad nauseam in the most annoying, semi-guttural homage to “Down With The Sickness” way possible. If there was anything truly redeeming about this album, Dez essentially kills it over and over every time he opens his mouth.
Though there was a level of improvement in the product pushed by these guys later, “DevilDriver” is essentially little more than a slightly more Thrashing version of SLIPKNOT. Some may like being subjected to the same utterly rudimentary formula 12 times with almost no changeups to speak of, but I don’t count myself among them, particularly when said formula was done better and with more balls 15 years earlier, without needing to out down tune Tony Iommi I might add. Even fans of the grooviest and boredom soaked version of Melodic Death Metal are encouraged to avoid this.
(Online May 15, 2010)