Album Review: DevilDriver – Winter Kills
Posted by Reggie
If DevilDriver were a baseball player, they would be the dependable hitter the crowd goes wild for in clutch situations. They nail the walk-off double in the bottom of the 9th inning. For those that not know baseball, instead think of DevilDriver as the little engine that could and did; or the dependable postman stepping through a foot of snow to deliver your Amazon package. They are the focused pilot landing a fighter on an aircraft carrier in the dark, in the fog, in the rain, in the wind, while using night vision. DevilDriver is unwavering, dependable, and consistent. Whether DevilDriver has a stellar groove laden album (DevilDriver) or a fierce, chaotic album (Pray for Villains), there is always a constant with DevilDriver and that is their ability to deliver. Winter Kills, their sixth album, is no exception. They have signed, sealed, and delivered an album that is more focused on the groove they established themselves with. I won’t say it’s a return to roots, but perhaps the fresh start on the new label Napalm gave them a bit more freedom.
Being predictable is a byproduct of being dependable. If there is anything negative to say about the album, it’s that the music and style is nothing new for DevilDriver. Being Dependable can sometimes be a curse in metal as we almost constantly crave (or demand) something new and refreshing with EVERY album and criticize bands who do not experiment. Well, DevilDriver certainly ticked the energetic and refreshing part, but “new and experimental” not quite so much. The riffs and grooves that run rampant on Winter Kills are familiar as we heard early in their career which is probably the reason you (we) like DevilDriver to begin with. However, when it comes to DevilDriver, I can’t see them straying too far from everything they have done up to this point sort of like…Overkill and Slayer who are known for staying the course.
So, at this point I have to decide if I am okay with resurrected grooves, energetic riffs, and scowling vocals. Well, the answer is yes and my support for such an album is due to the fact that this is what DevilDriver does. They don’t record ballads, they don’t inject proggy elements, and they don’t fly off course into undiscovered territory. The cover of Sail is probably the most unmetal thing I have heard them do. Winter Kills is heavy on groove, but also incorporates a lot more riffing and solos between Spreitzer and Kendrick. In fact, it is uncharacteristically prominent throughout Winter Kills which adds a slight element of depth compared to recent albums.
From the moment Oath of the Abyss kicks the album into overdrive, it is a fast-paced album of everything you know DevilDriver can and should be. Earlier I mentioned that metal fans like to hear new and improved stuff with every album. I wholeheartedly agree, but I do hold a handful of bands close to me that I hope never stray from what they do well. DevilDriver is one of them. I can’t stand the thought of them doing anything experimental or going against their norm they established over a decade ago. Slayer, Overkill, Lamb of God are a few others that should just do what they do which is record brutal, ruthless music. DevilDriver is a fierce beast and their music should reflect nothing less than that. Winter Kills may not be a breakout album for the band, but compared to the rest of their most recent discography it’s very refreshing!