In just over a month, Witchdoctor Productions will be hosting American melodic death metal band Devildriver and German sludge metal duo Mantar at the 2017 edition of their annual bone crushing event, Witchfest.
As the weeks pass and the event draws nearer we will be dedicating every Wednesday to 'Witchfest Wednesday' where albums will be reviewed and interviews conducted with these two international heavy weights as well as the local South African bands who will be giving them a taste of what we have to offer.
ALBUM NAME: The Last Kind Words
RELEASE DATE: 2007
GENRE: Melodic Death/ Groove Metal
Dez Fafara - Vocals
Mike Spreitzer - Guitar
Jeff Kendrick - Guitar
Jon Miller - Bass
John Boecklin - Drums
As a rule, man is a fool, when it’s hot he wants it cool, when it’s cool he wants it hot, always
wanting what is not. – Anonymous
As fans, we often feel personally offended when beloved bands deviate from what was (in our minds, at least) the “golden formula” in favour of experimentation and style progression. Alternatively, we also go to arms when groups remain entrenched in what we deem to be the same predictable routine. There’s no pleasing us, is there? The “problem” with this gloriously broad and entangled bush of thorns we call Metal music is the issue of subjectivity. Despite our best attempts to listen to a band with an objective ear, our own personal preferences and tastes will always play the role of bias in some way or another.
When revisiting any band’s discography in a present-day context, the phenomenon of evolution (or the glaring absence of such) often springs to mind. Namely, whenever a metal group has released a new album, all sorts of critiques and comments regarding how much they have or haven’t changed and whether it is for better or worse get strewn about like so much confetti. Devildriver’s musical journey since the murky, post-2000s inception that was their debut album has been no different, plagued with much scrutiny and comparisons to Fafara’s earlier nu-metal outfit Coal Chamber and Devildriver’s first two albums. Their third release, The Last Kind Words, gives off the impression that by this point the group had finally planted their feet firmly in the ground of what constitutes their signature sound.
It is often said of Devildriver that whilst their sound can be easily tied in with recognizable elements of melodic death, thrash, groove and Gothenburg-style harmonies, they consistently manage to sound fresh and modern, evading being pigeonholed into one set sub-genre and standing confidently amongst their NWOAHM contemporaries. The Last Kind Words hammered this point home, boasting a host of excellent tracks that sit comfortably in their relentlessly unyielding and melodious wheelhouse while leaning over the edge into other stylistic forays, sometimes even sludging through surprisingly doomy tangents, as heard on Monsters of The Deep. Second track (and one of this reviewer’s top picks) Clouds Over California is a classic example of Devildriver’s ability to flirt with thrash while waves of groove-laden dual riffing and John Boecklin’s marvellously inventive drumming keep things interesting.
Regarding evolution, a few critics decried the apparent lack of ground-breaking progression evident in The Last Kind Words when compared to Devildrivers’ peers in the Metal scene (Lamb of God, Chimaira), citing a dearth of truly creative leaps in song writing structure. While this may be true from a certain point of view, one must remember that in the same breath such critics will also proclaim that Devildriver are trying too hard to play with different styles or even slip the occasional nu-metal-esque flavour in to a track (The Axe Shall Fall). The fact of the matter is that such observations are (as always) mired in everyone’s personal tastes, and the intention of Devildriver’s musical output remains both theirs as musicians and open to our interpretation, as it should be.
In this reviewer’s humble opinion, The Last Kind Words remains both a solid metal offering (perfect for a wild night of headbanging and moshing) and a testament to Devildriver’s progression from oft-doubted upstarts in the hierarchy of serious Metal bands to tour-seasoned veterans; secure in spewing out their own brand of Heavy Metal and utilizing whichever ideas and influences they damn well please. Hate them or love them, Devildriver have continued to demonstrate exactly why they deserve our respect, if not praise.
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