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Killer Be Killed

Killer Be Killed album art

Killer Be Killed

9th May 2014 – Nuclear Blast Records

01. Wings of Feather and Wax
02. Face Down
03. Melting Of My Marrow
04. Snakes Of Jehova
05. Curb Crusher
06. Save The Robots
07. Fire To Your Flag
08. I.E.D.
09. Dust Into Darkness
10. Twelve Labors
11. Forbidden Fire
12. Ghosts Of Chernobyl (vinyl only)

Supergroups are unusual creatures at the best of times, however until fairly recently, it would have been unimaginable that the question “have you heard about that band featuring members of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon and The Mars Volta?” could be answered with the counter-question “Which one?” – but with Ben Weinman and Brent Hinds still working on Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, Killer Be Killed are the first of the pair to release their self-titled debut album.

For the avoidance of doubt, Killer Be Killed features Dillinger’s Greg Puciato and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders alongside Sepultura/Soulfly legend Max Cavalera. The Mars Volta element of the equation is journeyman Dave Elitch, who briefly sat on the drum stool for the quirky proggers on tour. However, as a session drummer in demand he has also spent time in the backing bands of Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus – but you can understand why they left that off the ‘featuring members of…’ sticker on the front of the CD case.

Opening track “Wings of Feather and Wax” does raise a concern on first listen. With Troy handling lead vocals on the verse, Greg on the chorus and Max on the bridge, each segment sounds worrying like off-cuts from sessions from their respective day jobs that have been glued together, but fortunately this is not a defining trait of the album as a whole.

Of course, the heritage of the group is apparent throughout but Killer Be Killed have smelted their collective influence together into a sound of their own. It is Soulfly chugging without the tribalisms, Dillinger with the math- turned down and the -core turned up, and Mastodon’s psychedelic sludge without the 70s prog – often all at once – so it is no mean feat that it sounds as cohesive as it does. This speaks to a refreshing absence of ego amongst the band members. The split feels balanced and natural, with all parties seemingly willing to share the limelight and no single dominant force.

The three better-known names are given a solid foundation to work from in the form of Dave’s drumming. Much like the album as a whole, his approach is no-nonsense and unfussy, yet finds the space for some pleasingly deft flourishes that display the real depth of talent on offer here.

Perhaps the biggest surprise musically is that Greg has also joined Max in picking up a guitar. The importance of this move to the individuality of the bands sound probably can’t be underestimated, adding some new flavours to Max’s trademark economical riffing.

Although Killer Be Killed doesn’t mess about, with its twelve songs cutting straight to the chase and leaving no space for self-indulgences, it is still varied in tone and pace. Slower, slightly dreamier numbers like “Melting of My Marrow” sit alongside uptempo bangers like “I.E.D” – itself a wry, updated nod to Max’s earlier side project Nailbomb, perhaps?

Having, effectively, three lead singers could have resulted in Killer Be Killed sounding just a little confused, but their individual contributions are so well-balanced they have managed to turn a potential pitfall into a real asset and defining feature.

It is also clear that these songs would sound great played live, but given how full the schedules of the band members are, it’s almost a miracle they found the time between them to write and record the album. So the chances of any touring are probably best viewed as being relatively low, and an opportunity to watch them play should be pounced on with indecent haste. Perhaps the ideal scenario would be for Killer Be Killed and Giraffe Tongue Orchestra to tour together. We can but hope.

Killer Be Killed is not earth-shattering, but the passion of those involved – not to mention the enjoyment they have derived from the project – shines through in almost every note of the album. With virtually no weak tracks, it should appeal to Max, Greg and Troy’s existing fanbases in equal measure.

Killer Be Killed is a straightforward, no-nonsense, well-executed metal album that draws the considerable legacies of its contributors together to form something that is both familiar and distinctive simultaneously. And that is quite an achievement.