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Devil Driver has been a favorite punching bag of the metal community for a while now, alot of it directed at Dez Fafara. I was never a friend of Coal Chamber but I did like Fafara, and like I hoped, he left that horrid band for something with far more lasting potential. Since Devil Driver's self-titled debut was a pain to withstand, I wasn't exactly charged with excitement to hear anything else by them. "The Fury of Our Maker's Hand" and "Last Kind Words" were both steps in a better direction, even honorable mentions in terms of quality.
Devil Driver make their largest improvement in terms of maturity here on this release. It carries a more melodic tone to some of these songs than previously encountered, but it holds up fairly well. While this album does take influences from some new areas, like Pantera-inspired groove for instance, it still retains alot of the aggressive nature of earlier songs. I'd even go so far to say that it surpasses previous albums on that level, as well it proves to be a more quality release in terms of songwriting.
Songs like "Fate Stepped In" and the title track are both examples of Devil Driver maintaining their older sound. Other songs like "Pure Sincerity," "Back with a Vengeance," and "It's in the Cards" all show some Pantera-inspired Southern groove metal thrown in, but this still retains more of the band's sound from the last album, running off the wells of melo-death and a tiny bit of thrash. Despite throwing in some influences that could otherwise de-rail this effort, the band puts them in the right amounts or at the right times so everything holds together for what I consider their most impressive album to date.
While the band continues to improve, especially drummer John Boecklin who is particularly impressive here, I like the variation Dez throws in on this release. He still prefers his trademark snarling growl most of the time, though he does throw in some lower pitch spoken word sections like on "It's in the Cards," albeit just for a short while. His vocals on that track in particular, along with "Resurrection Blvd." and "Teach Me to Whisper" are not as gutteral, though his lighter vocals are not as good as his usual style. Still, he works pretty well most of the time, and this evolution in his vocal style kicks the hell out of what he was doing in Coal Chamber or on the Devil Driver self-titled.
The biggest problem I had out of this album might be that it slowly runs out of ideas as we near the end of the album. This is definitely nothing isolated to Devil Driver, as its a common issue with most American bands today. Since these songs are still good to great, I don't find this to be a huge problem. It does, however, make repeat listens a bit of a drag at times since some of these tracks do run together. This has been an issue with this band from the very beginning, and it isn't as noticable here since more than a fair share of songs here are memorable.
At the end of the day, I give Devil Driver praise for this album. Its a step up in every way I can come up with, better songs, better performances, and the incorporation of newer ideas and smart implementation. This band did evolve here, but they didn't go so far out of their element that it backfired. This is still the same Devil Driver you heard before on "Last Kind Words," but we have a more mature and more intelligent band. If you can withstand a little repeititon at times, you do get about 9 songs out of 13 that are memorable or at least fun, but none of these are mediocre or bad. A worthy mention in the string of 2009 metal releases.