After their well-received 2018 Outlaw Country album; ‘Outlaws ’til the End: Vol. 1’, groove metal merchants Devildriver return to more familiar territory with their latest opus: ‘Dealing With Demons I’, and as the title suggests, it’s the first volume of a two-album project. So the first all-new original material from Devildriver since 2016’s ‘Trust No One’ is going to be a double? Noice!
Any notions that frontman Dez Fafara might have slowed down with time, or gotten less-angry, are quickly dispelled with the crushing album opener; ‘Keep Away From Me’. The slow, Sabbath-esque sludgy opening moments soon explode to live with a trademark Fafara guttural scream, then the bass-drum kicks in. A timely song title, ‘Keep Away From Me’ has Fafara exploring his own agoraphobia, and as he explains: “I’ve been social distancing since I was born. I’ve learned to try and embrace my agoraphobia all my life. This is what the lyrics are about as we are all sheltered in place…”. It’s a slow-burning, gradual opening track that sneaks up on the listener and delivers one hell of a punch. As does the groove-laden ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ which quickly follows on. Pacier than the opening track, it forms a pit-inducing killer one-two with ‘Nest Of Vipers’, if only the band had the chance to induce an actual pit though. Fantastic tones from guitarists Mike Spreitzer and Neal Tiemann throughout, with plenty of different vibes thrown into the melting pot.
If it’s the guitarists that take all the plaudits on ‘Nest Of Vipers’, then on ‘Iona’ it’s the stellar work from the backbone of the band (drummer Austin D’Amond and bassist Diego Ibarra) that is worthy of special mention. Relentless bass-drum work, and skull-crushing basslines very much the order of the day. ‘Wishing’ features the first Devildriver clean vocals from Fafara and provides a bit of a change in style. Not completely though as the clean spoken word vocals are delivered with an eerie effect through them (shades of Coal Chamber), and they come in-between full-on assaults from the band. “Devildriver use clean vocals” might sound alarm bells for some fans, but no need to be concerned for they slot in perfectly, and bring a dark, mysterious atmosphere with them.
The back end of the album kicks off with the immense title-track, which also begins with a slight Sabbath-esque feel. The kind of track where if you are on the way to the bar and the band slams into this one, you forgo the over-priced pisswater on offer, turn around, and head back to the pit to get your groove on. Like the vast majority of the album, the razor-sharp riffage from Spreitzer and Tiemann is crucial, and some of the melodies that the pair conjure up are perfect. The guitars on the opening to ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’ tip a hat to Maiden, a vibe that continues throughout, especially on the numerous slower-paced breakdowns. Ending on the raw ‘Scars Me Forever’, ‘Dealing With Demons I’ is a stunning, brutally honest, and personal record that has Fafara doing what it says on the tin; dealing with demons. It goes without saying that volume two is much-anticipated.
Available now through Napalm Records.
Review – Dave
Image on header – Stephanie Cabral with illustration by Anne Catherine Swallow.