A skull with antlers in the water.

A skull with antlers in the water.

Devildriver – Winter Kills (Album Review)


When you hear a person say the name Devildriver, many people may disregard it as an involuntary thought. To metal fans the word Devildriver means that much more, because the word brings out the emotion of pride with a fire burning inside. Being formed in 2002 in Santa Barbara, California by Dez Fafara; he then summoned Jon Miller, John Boecklin, and Jeff Kendrick to join the band. When Evan Pitts left the band early on in 2004 Mike Spreitzer fit the puzzle just perfect and has been a member since. Over the years they have developed a long lasting relationship with their fans and forged themselves as one of the top bands in the metal genre. Their music can be described as an intense ride that is not only a full adrenaline rush but also music that people can gravitate towards as well. From their debut album Devildriver (2003) to Beast (2011) Devildriver has managed to keep that intensity while creating a new and unique piece of work each time. When Fafara reunited with Coal Chamber back in 2011 many wondered if it would affect Devildriver. The answered was a resonating no as Fafara has seamlessly taken on both bands with open arms. Long time fans of the band have been anxiously awaiting a new release and with that we are given the band’s 6th studio Winter Kills.

The opening track entitled “Oath of the Abyss” unleashes a brutal beginning that diehard fans will certainly love. What makes this a great opening track is that it has a plentiful amount of vocal hooks by Fafara while having an amazing melodic guitar driven sound from beginning to end. “Ruthless” follows up perfectly with ear catching guitar riffs provided by Kendrick and Spreitzer that transport you into the heart of a Devildriver mosh pit. The track “Desperate Times” contains lyrics that are deep, making the song one of the most elaborate on the album. It is an extreme upbeat song with an ear pleasing guitar tone which will get a crowd going at any Devildriver concert. On the title track “Winter Kills” the listener is given a hard hitting thrash sound with a melodic death metal melody that will certainly get your adrenaline pumping hard and fast. The chorus grabs you making you want more and the drumming of Boecklin will have you beating your chest to each hit. “The Appetite” is a stand out track on the album with power and emotion. The carefully played opening sets an atmosphere that explodes within moments. The track will certainly feed the appetite of long time fans and is bound to stand up there in the rankings of favorites such as songs like “Devils Son”. With “Gutted” the guitars are right up in your face with a picking that will make your heart race. The aggression delivers every sense of what the term “Metalhead” is; it is loud, hard hitting, and action packed. Fafara’s voice is strong and possesses a rage. Fans will certainly love to hear this played live which will most likely result in a monsoon of crowd surfing. “Curses and Epitaphs” is another track with a clear atmosphere beneath the aggression. It has a perfect mixture of great guitar riffs, subtle darkness, and intense vocals incorporated into one great song. You can tell the band dug deep for tracks like this and succeeded in making something unique and memorable. With “Carings Overkill” Boecklin has the platform to showcase his phenomenal drumming skills with a kick drum sound which pops through the speakers with authority. It also spotlights the a excellent dueling guitar solo giving you complete goose bumps as well as an insight into their signature playing style. With “Haunting Refrain” the adrenaline ride is kept going and holds strength in the harmonized guitar work keeping an irresistible groove. Pushing things to the next level “Tripping Over Tombstones” is perhaps one of the heaviest songs on the entire album showing strong resembles to deathcore music while still keeping the sound of Devildriver. The guitar breakdowns mixed with deep screams of Fafara make for a striking sound. The album closes out with a cover of indie band Awolnation’s song “Sail”. Originally an electronic track Devildriver’s take on the track is quite interesting. The electronic drone sound is replaced with killer guitar riffs and melody transforming this song into something completely different. Fafara stays true to the original vocal styling of Aaron Bruno but put his own harsh tone into it. It’s rather impressive to see Fafara take a song introduced to him by teenage sons and craft it into something new.

Devildriver fans are indeed in for an everlasting treat with Winter Kills. The band not only reinvented themselves to an extent; they have reignited a fire and came back with a hard hitting album. Winter Kills is passionate, intense, and a furious piece of work with guitar work that will set your adrenaline levels sky high. The strengths and durability of every band member shine bright and shows what working together for 11 years can do for a band. This album is indeed a solid contender for being one of the top ten metal albums of 2013. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars!

Napalm Records
Napalm Records

Written by Lee Letarte Jr

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