Posted by & filed under Music, Reviews.


Devildriver - Winter Kills

[27th August 2013]
[Napalm Records]

01. Oath Of The Abyss
02. Ruthless
03. Desperate Times
04. Winter Kills
05. The Appetite
06. Gutted
07. Curses And Epitaphs
08. Caring’s Overkill
09. Haunting Refrain
10. Tripping Over Tombstones
11. Sail (Awolnation cover)
12. Shudder (Bonus Track)
13. Back Down To The Grave (Bonus Track)

Many a metalhead has mentioned that part of the reason they got into their chosen genre is the sheer energy that a band bring onstage and into the studio. They often say that the music is ‘empowering’; a life-affirming rush of power when a favourite song kicks in. But what if ‘empowering’ can be a bad thing? What if it results in an album that caters to all of the required clichés of a genre (in this case groove metal) but leaves only tiny scorch marks once it’s finished blazing? Sadly, this is the case with Devildriver‘s latest release Winter Kills, an album that manages to do only a little that’s explicitly wrong, and yet at the same time doesn’t quite sit right throughout.

The familiar formula has been set by previous albums: one can expect Pantera-riddled groove crossed with a healthy admiration of classic Gothenburg melodeath. Almost every single track on Winter Kills adheres to this in some way or another, with “Ruthless” providing the quintessential example; the weaving guitar lines and riffs from Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer are commendable, and there is an undeniable headnodding groove to most choruses, like on “Tripping Over Tombstones”. Dez Fafara, unflinching and relentless in his distinctive hoarse snarl, weaves his way through with predictable tough-guy lyrics (“Fuck you I’m ruthless” and “Desperate times call for desperate measures“), while Mark Lewis‘ production of the whole thing simply bounces with energy.

Slight deviations from this formula come with both welcome and unwelcome side-effects. Some melodies stick well, particularly in the opener “Oath Of The Abyss”, as do the guitarists’ few yet fantastic forays into soloing (cf. “The Appetite” and “Haunting Refrain”). The touches of piano that adorn the more melancholic “Curses And Epitaphs”, while surprising, are nevertheless enjoyable. On the flipside, some experimentation either bewilders or grates; the cover of electro-rockers Awolnation‘s “Sail” is well-intentioned but poorly-executed, particularly the frankly laughable twang on Fafara’s vocals as he scream-croons “Blame it on my ADD, baby”. The nadir of the album, however, is the breakdown-filled “Gutted”; almost devoid of melody and completely unmemorable, which is regrettably sandwiched between two far stronger tracks.

Is Winter Kills empowering? Undoubtably so, but to the band’s detriment rather than their benefit; the sound simply thunders, but this simplicity in approach doesn’t do them any favours. To their credit, there are some strong moments dotted around the release, with “Curses And Epitaphs” remaining a highlight, but there is still much that is either insipid or forgettable. An improvement on previous release Beast this may be, but unless hardcore bravado crossed with occasional flairs of melodeath appeals, then Devildriver will still remain unapproachable. However, if you’re a fan of either the band or their compatriots Lamb Of God and Chimaira, then get stuck in and join one of the band’s famed moshpits.


Angel writer banner