After ending their eight year marriage with Roadrunner Records, DevilDriver released the brand new Winter Kills album under Napalm Records on August 27. Prior to this release, I was pretty iffy about DevilDriver; on one hand they are a pretty respectable death metal band, but on the other hand they’re not from Norway. But putting my Europhilia aside, I found Winter Kills to be excellent.
It all begins with a track titled “Oath to the Abyss“, which is by all means an assault to the ears as well as a horrible example for what to expect of the rest of the album. Because of this track, I was expecting the rest of the track list to also be a generic, overproduced, one-dimensional, clusterfuck of noise. Luckily I was very wrong. “Oath of the Abyss” just offers nothing interesting, it’s simply textbook death metal. Yawn.
Moving on with the following songs, I was pleased to encounter some surprises. “Ruthless” and “Desperate Times” really cater to the more musically refined demographic (people who like things outside textbook death metal). There is a wonderful amount of lyrical meter variation which helps a lot to give songs a more progressive feel. The guitar riffs both distinctive and creative, the snare fills are well-placed and unpredictable, and the darker, more melodic bridges interrupt the chaos at the perfect time.
My biggest judgment will always fall upon the namesake of the album. I feel like there is an unwritten responsibility to make this song impeccable. In this case, the track “Winter Kills” really impressed me. Musically, it has a more layered feel to it as it begins with a climactic buildup of more of those distinctive riffs, and escalating drums. Over these elements, the distinct vocals of Dez Fararra begin to cut through the chaos as he screams things that are as indistinguishable as they are metal. This is exactly what the album namesake should sound like.
The following songs keep that signature DevilDriver pace but lack none of the dimension introduced by “Winter Kills“. There is a certain balance that is maintained better past that point, and I am convinced that the first half and second half of the album were recorded separately.
I do have to make a comment before I give my overall review: The final track is a cover of “Sail” by Awolnation. It’s excellent.
Baring the audio Valum that was the first track, I think that DevilDriver are still going strong in terms of originality. With the American death metal scene being so oversaturated with garbage, it really takes talent and variety to really be set apart from said garbage. Winter Kills is not only a great way for DevilDriver to begin their partnership with Napalm Records, but it’s also a glimmer of hope for my moderate to severe prejudice against American music.
Buy the album: