DevilDriver – Dealing with Demons vol. II Review

DevilDriver is not the most popular band with dyed-in-the-wool metalheads. Founded by Dez Fafara after the merciful death of Coal Chamber,1 this outfit embodies “you’ll grow out of it.” Core screams that aren’t quite growls, lyrics full of nonspecific angst and anger that appeal to teenagers, chug-laden straightforward riffs and simple solos. The Hot Topic crowd goes wild. But as such, it has been an important gateway band to many, and in my opinion, one of the few with redeeming qualities. Despite some filler, I rather enjoyed most of Beast back in 2011 in all its knuckle-dragging glory. Sometimes you want something dumb and angry, and DevilDriver certainly fit that niche. Beast was also the last time I picked up their music, though, so how has the last decade and change affected Fafara and company?

Apparently not a huge amount. The core of the music is exactly the same: chuggy groove metal riffs, melodic licks that dip into Gothenburg territory, the vocals a tireless stream of coarse screams that spit and curse and lament their inner demons. However, there are subtle changes. Both the number of tracks and the average track length have gone down, making for a much tidier album. That’d be a smart move in dumb angry music, but not every track is dumb and angry anymore. There seems to be a conscious effort to branch out, touching on more melancholic notes and incorporating bits and pieces of other genres. I would never accuse DevilDriver of getting experimental; for all its many, many, many flaws, Coal Chamber still seems to be where Fafara sticks his weirder tendencies. But the mission statement sure doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Change comes in baby steps and the degrees of success vary invariably. The fastest track, “Through the Depths,” embeds a shimmering tremolo among a stream of blast-beats, a great move that’s more atmoblack than groove metal. But this out-of-the-box inclusion is coupled with some of the most metalcore phrasing I’ve heard the band do, eliciting a most baffling stylistic whiplash. Both “Nothing Lasts Forever” and “If Blood is Life” attempt to mix the usual ‘fighting the world’ posturing with some genuine pathos. The former falls flat entirely due to some weirdly placed pinch harmonics, but the latter is not entirely without merit as a break from self-aggrandizement, even as the music feels a little awkward when the band leaves its comfort zone.

But DevilDriver gonna devildrive, and while the result of the variations are mixed, these adjustments are spread thin, and the band’s safe space sound is in shabby shape. With most of the tunes barely elevated above a mid-pace, there’s just not enough Neanderthal rampage energy to ignore the facade of toughness. “I Have No Pity” and “Mantra” make for a basic but effective opening combo to scream in your car on the way home from a boss you hate, with the former the more juvenile option. But both are still closer to controlled mid-paced stompers than bouts of feral fury. Yet these are among the better tracks in the category ‘classic DD.’ The nadir is “It’s A Hard Truth” which repeats its mawkish title to the point of annoying belligerence and doesn’t even have a decent riff to make up for it.

DevilDriver gets more hate than it deserves from our circles, but it’s never been a straight A student at the best of its abilities. Dealing with Demons vol. II shows a laudable willingness to pick at a 20-year-old formula, but in the process dilutes the band’s strengths and gains little from the trade-off. If you already have a predilection toward chest-thumping groove metal, you might still get some enjoyment out of this one, but without committing to either savagery or upending the table and trying something different, it’s a bit of a dud.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which unfortunately failed to stick. Twice.
« »