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Sunday, July 05, 2009

CD Review: Devildriver - Pray for Villains

Devildriver - Pray for Villains
2009 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

At this point, if you mutter Dez Fafara's name with Coal Chamber's in the same sentence, expect to be cast direct center into a Parting of the Red Sea with an entire club full of Devildriver fans collapsing on you from both sides.

Also, if you haven't done your homework enough to realize Devildriver's name isn't satanic, that it in fact represents quite the opposite, a driving out of demons and their nihilistic overlord (thus this writer hasn't committed blasphemy by reviewing Devildriver on the Christian sabbath, so ha!) then forget all of that semantic nonsense and get some.

After four albums now to their credit, Fafara and his hurricane squad have come well into their own as a dominant force of modern metal bringing as much heaviness as you're wont to take. With Pray for Villans, Devildriver have stepped their game up another notch they could easily take on a battle of the bands against Dethklok on the southernmost tip of Florida and give Nathan Explosion and his gory anarchists a good once-over.

One band being a genuine touring entity versus a hypothetical fiction group (Brandon Small and Gene Hoglan aside), the fact is Devildriver doubles their efforts on Pray for Villains, a massive album which only has one misfire, the overly-experimental shuffle-jive of "Pure Sincerity" which only fizzles because of the unwelcome double-bass kick smooshing its primarily slow groove flat.

Of course, triple beats, blast rhythms and severely-possessed ankles are drummer John Boecklin's calling card and everywhere else on Pray for Villains the heavy artillery he lays upon his afflicted bass drum serves Devildriver's efforts perfectly. Boecklin summons veritable monsoons from his bulky thrash tempos on the title track, "I See Belief," "Fate Stepped In," "I've Been Sober," "Forgiveness is a Six Gun" and most especially his lethal provocations on "Waiting for November." There's just no way you're just going to sit around with your hands in your pockets with this album--albeit the latter track probably yields a great wanking rhythm.

Dez Fafara has settled snugly into a headbanger's ethos after four slabs he knows when to set his hellions free to be their own show as he has shirked off his fame in the interest of coughing out smartly-delivered and graceful (for growling tones, that is) flow in time with his band. Jeffrey Kendrick and Michael Spreitzer have made a formidable alliance for three consecutive albums since original guitarist Evans Pitts departed it truly feels like Devildriver has (along with bassist Jon Miller) has been an all-original member entity, no disrespect intended towards Pitts.

The solos whirled out from Kendrick and Spreitzer are another reason to sink into Pray for Villains. Whether they're called upon to keep it simplstic and cut short on the doom-laden "It's in the Cards" or they fling out six-string symposiums equivalent to the soundtrack of Zeus' wrath by their relentless fret twirls on "Resurrection Blvd," this tag team may get blown away by only a handful of their peers (KK Downing and Glenn Tipton, Maiden's front trio or Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu being obvious leaders of the realm), but undoubtedly these bucks will give anyone in the business a spirited toe-to-toe.

Produced by Machine Head's Logan Mader, Pray for Villains is both leaner and meatier to the point Devildriver's songs become a bit more anthemic where the listener can easily yell "Break the cycle!" along with Fafara on "Bitter Pill" or "So get your head up!" on "Fate Stepped In." As Fafara's true home is along the world's lost highways (confirmed by this writer in 2005 in an interview with Fafara from his rolling bus), he waxes about the road life throughout Pray for Villains while Mader assembles his band's parts to the point you're feeling perfectly bunked in for the ride.

"Teach Me to Whisper" is another interesting tune, not only from its terrific bobbing thrash groove and articulate guitar lines, but from a lyrical standpoint where Fafara issues a responsible edict to work on the side of the light by striving to keep one's anger harbored and channeled productively. You have to appreciate a man who barks for a living having the wherewithal to preach inner peace.

Whether you've been paying attention or not, Devildriver is fully-equipped at this point to make a stand for themselves as one of metal's more honest and endearing units. The Fury of Maker's Hand was Dez Fafara's announcement of his intentions beyond his past, while Pray for Villains is a headstrong making good on those promises.

Rating: ****


Anonymous said...

like a fucking wall of gnarly being smashed into my skull when i listen to these guys

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

You, my friend, ought to send this to Roadrunner...that's the coolest quote of the year!

DeathMetalChan said...

Well, I honestly thought instrumentally, Pray For Villains is truly talented, and definitely head-banging...but I really dislike Dez's new vocal style. It's way overdubbed, and overproduced, and I wish he'd revert back to Fury Of Our Maker's Hand style. Another thing that bugged me was the song titles...I mean "Teach Me To Whisper", "Waiting For November"...what ever happened to "Ripped Apart" "Impending Disaster" and "Swinging the Dead"? My rating: 2.5 stars out of 5