DevilDriver tear their way through heavy metal again with Beast, the band's fifth album for Roadrunner Records, which is an exorcism of animalistic, primal hooks, thunderous percussion and propulsive thrashing. While many bands in the modern era are already withering away by their second album and have shriveled up and died by their third, DevilDriver have proven to mutate, growing stronger, deadlier and more immortal with each successive release. Beast is living, firebreathing proof of that unassailable fact.
DevilDriver—Dez Fafara (Vocals), John Boecklin (Drums), Jeff Kendrick (Guitar), Mike Spreitzer (Guitar), Jon Miller (Bass)—have awakened something dark, deadly and dangerous. They've brought Beast to life for record number five. With Beast, DevilDriver ventured into new territory: the grooves are catchier than ever, but there's an intricacy and taut technicality to them, representative of an angrier musical monster. Beast comes a mere two years after the band's incredibly successful Pray for Villains, which debuted at number 35 on the Billboard Top 200. Villains even surpassing first-week sales of their critically acclaimed 2007 outing, The Last Kind Words and 2005's The Fury of Our Maker's Hand. It's been a constant uptick for the Southern California quintet since they first blasted a hole through the zeitgeist in 2003 with their pivotal self-titled debut.
DevilDriver continue breaking the mold and busting heads in the studio and on stage. Who can forget their now legendary appearance at Download 2007, which arguably generated the biggest circle pit in history? Or any other live show they've played for that matter? Or any of the explosive anthems they've released to radio or video? Nevertheless, everything that has come before merely served as a prelude to the birth of Beast.
"It's another level," Fafara says of his band's latest offering, insisting that the band isn’t tethered to any style, genre or self-imposed limitations. "We didn't simply re-issue a sound we found that worked, which most bands will do especially on their fifth, sixth or seventh record. They'll lay on their laurels and stick to what they've done. We're not looking at what anyone around us is doing. Since we're not paying attention to any of that, we were able to find unique music within ourselves. We tried to break some boundaries and stretch the genre open. We keep redefining ourselves."
Most bands don't sound this fierce and fiery on record number one and most don’t have the stamina to retain this burst of sound and fury by a fifth full-length. However, DevilDriver aren’t “most bands”; they burst at the seams with a violent energy that teeters between the hyper-charged assault of "Hardened" and the punked-out fire of "Bring the Fight (To the Floor.)"
Fafara goes on to say that "Everyone came full circle on this album. They're all playing their asses off. This is something where I put myself to the test. We've taken a complete left turn by really trying to install groove and cadence. You hear weird, odd tempos, and we're taking little slices of the map out and putting in groove. For me, there's a lot of punk rock influence too. It's a crazy dichotomy of music."
The musical prowess of the band members is becoming more evident beyond the metal world, as Spreitzer, Kendrick and Miller will all release signature ESP guitars sometime next year. Miller is also only the third bassist in the history of the company to have his own signature bass, which is a testament to his fortification of DevilDriver’s rhythmic backbone. Boecklin has also been prominently featured in all drum magazines, namely Modern Drummer and DRUM!, as his kit work continues to turn heads.
DevilDriver conjure genuine chaos and make it beautifully brutal with the dichotomy that Fafara spoke of. For Fafara, the title sums up the band's mindset. "The record title Beast doesn't just explain the music. It really has to do with us and what we've become. The touring machine that we are is Beast. As friends, we're Beast. That describes us perfectly. The last 24 months has really shown us who we are as individuals and as a band. After everything we've gone through as people and as a band, it's totally appropriate."
That touring machine will commence in the immediate wake of the album's February 22, 2011 release. Be prepared to hear "Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)" being screamed back to DevilDriver at festivals worldwide by fans. On songs like "Shitlist" and "You Make Me Sick (Sacred Secrets,)" Fafara and Co. go right for the jugular musically and lyrically.
"It's a sincere, pissed-off street record," reveals the singer. "It's got straight-to-your-heart lyrics. I jumped outside of myself on Pray for Villains and wrote stories. On this one, I came back to who I was. It was an intense time, and this captures that intensity. It's the guy who walks through shit the best that eventually starts hovering over the top and he wins. Some people will lock themselves in a dark room and wallow because the world is crumbling. I do the opposite. I start sharpening my teeth and my nails. I start looking with an electric fucking glance and moving through life. That's what this album is about—the daily fight that is life."
Producer Mark Lewis [All That Remains, Trivium] encouraged the band to continue to fighting harder. After an intense series of writing sessions in early 2010, DevilDriver recorded with Lewis at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, TX. Fafara and Lewis finished vocals together in San Diego at the home studio of Tim Lambesis [As I Lay Dying]. Dez continues, "Working with Mark Lewis was a great help this time because he envisioned where we were all going with us. He wanted us to step out of the box, and together we did."
Stepping out of the box lead to "Dead to Rights," which spills blood with every note, building an infectious refrain within the framework of pummeling polyrhythmic madness. "Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)" is an anthemic war cry that drops from shrieking verses into double bass terror, while "Blur" spits punk grit into extreme metal posturing. This is one Beast that cannot and will not be contained.
In the end, Beast is as alive as anything DevilDriver has done up to this point because of the devotion of the members.
Fafara concludes, "These five souls make this band what it is. It lies in the salt and pepper from everyone. What's most important is our fans get delivered the kind of music, stage show and energy that they're expecting from us. Because of all the time and personal sacrifice, we are a Beast. The pleasure is that we're all together as friends still. Nothing can stop DevilDriver."
This Beast is alive and won't ever die. You have been warned…