Opinions about Devildriver have always run deep regarding their style or the evolution of their front man Dez Fafara since his early days with Coal Chamber and most people have made up their minds one way or another. Personally I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved and how he has progressed and matured, from a musical perspective, over the years.
The Californian quintet have moved further away from their old sound with 'Winter Kills', their sixth release and the first release on this new label and there is a much different feel to it, much more intense and focused, a more brutal assault on the senses, with a primal quality, plenty of riffs and at times a very nice groove.
The powerful drumming of Jeff Boecklin makes a big impact on every track, Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer have upped their game with their guitar work on this album and Dez's vocals are harsher and more intense than ever.
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Opening with 'Oath Of The Abyss' which comes in like a tidal wave but then the underlying groove follows beautifully behind; a catchy start.
I love the down-tuned groove on 'Ruthless' as it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, even before Dez's vocals had began. 'Desperate Times' is fast frantic, exciting and catchy.
There's no let up in the pace with the intense title track, 'Winter Kills.' A fabulous guitar opener builds in intensity as the vocals kick in on 'The Appetite', a mid paced head nodding track. 'Gutted' is powerfully intense and chugging.
Look out for the stunning solo towards the end of 'Curses And Epitaphs'. An excellent down-tuned groove keeps popping up on 'Carings Overkill' and the added bonus of a nice guitar segment towards the end.
Don't be fooled by the gentle opener; 'Haunting Refrain' comes at you with a frenzy, pulling out all the stops with the solo at the latter end of the track. 'Tripping Over Tombstones' is a chugging and pulsating penultimate track.
The album ends, not unusually, on a wildcard of a track, with a cover of Awolnation's 'Sail'. In the past Devildriver's obscure covers often leave you wondering just what their thoughts were behind their choices of tracks to cover, but this version is massively improved for receiving a Metal makeover compared to the rather appalling original version.
'Winter Kills' is another great album from Devildriver, eleven intense, winning tracks that are a great listen and if you didn't like them before, give this a try as you just might change your mind.