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Trust is overrated - 75%

Wacke, June 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak)

DevilDriver is one of the last standing bands out of the early 2000's metal(core) scene. Where many of their old peers have perished in recent years, DevilDriver has remained quite productive by releasing a new album every two year or so. Trust No One is not your ordinary DevilDriver album, however, seeing as it marks a few changes within the band. Firstly we have the fact that this is the first DD album to arrive after a three year gap. This was due to vocalist Dez Fafara reuniting his former band Coal Chamber and doing a record with them in 2015. Things didn't seem to quite work out in that camp, however, and CC has seemingly been put to rest once again, with Dez quickly returning to DevilDriver. Secondly we have the changes within DD itself as well. Since the band's 2013 release Winter Kills and the following hiatus, the band has lost its long-time drummer John Boecklin, long-time guitarist Jeff Kendrick, and short-lived bassist Chris Towning. Needless to say, DevilDriver's had a lot to prove with this album.

When the first notes from "Testimony of Truth" hit our ears it's evident that DevilDriver is back - just as we know them. Our greatest fears and most curious anticipations about DevilDriver anno 2016 are quickly put to rest. It's clear as day that the new band (lacking a dedicated bass player on the album) is just as good as the old one - if not even better. In my review for Winter Kills I did criticize John Boecklin's drumming to some extent for being less interesting than usual. Seeing this album's overall lyrical theme (trust) and listening to Dez's pissed off rants, it leaves our minds open to speculate that things may have been somewhat tense within the band before its hiatus. Especially considering that three of the band's four instrumentalists left the band before this album was made. While not quite clear if this has got anything to do with the album's lyrical theme, it does seem somewhat too convenient.

New guys on this release are Neil Tiemann and Austin D'Amond. The latter's well known from his stints with Bleed The Sky as well as Chimaira shortly before their ultimate demise. They manage to completely and confidently carry on the band's trademark sound. They fit absolutely perfect in the band and I have no doubts that Dez and Mike Spreitzer could've found better replacements for the band. It's like the band never lost any members at all. Austin's drumming in particular is just as thunderous and awesome as on any DD release ever, without being a copy-n-paste sound to that of Boecklin's drumming. The guy's just a madman behind the kit. Neil Tiemann on the other hand proves to already be a perfect songwriting partner for the band, penning a few of album's tracks which all sound convincing.

Musically this album, much like its lyrical theme(s), takes a very dark route. I thought the previous two albums were pretty dark but this one goes even further. The songs are slightly more eerie and haunting than before, which is especially evident in the band's trademark guitar harmonies and clean parts. Songs like "Retribution", "House Divided" and the title-track are like deep melancholy and (mostly) angst put together into a great groove metal sound. This is further evident by the fact that this album's missing a "party song" - something the band always had on previous albums. We are also treated with what is apparently a song from Dez to his wife - "For What It's Worth". In a series of webisodes documenting the making of this album, Dez described it as the "heaviest thing ever". It was something of my greatest anticipation with the album, and I must say I'm not disappointed. The song is beyond everything else on this album. It's absolutely amazing and it might even be my favorite DD song of all time. It's one of those songs which left me speechless.

At the end of the day DevilDriver assure us that they're alive and well. Despite having gone through massive changes since their last album, things don't sound like it. It could be for better or worse depending on how you see it, but I personally love the band for their trademark sound and am glad it's not changed. I do, however, feel that this particular album might perhaps be somewhat one dimensional. It's almost as if they played things a bit too safely, which of course is understandable if so. Where previous albums often felt more varied and had half a bunch of "hits" on them, this one feels more like a greatest hits collection of album tracks. Trust No One will likely not go down in history as the band's finest hour but it's a decent record which provides us with some great new music from them. Most of all it ironically cemented a trust that the band's still got an interesting future ahead of them.

Check-outs: For What It's Worth, My Night Sky, Trust No One, Daybreak, House Divided.

Circle pit-inducing, Californian groove metal - 75%

Vaim, April 21st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak)

In our little metal world, DevilDriver is a name that rings a bell with most metalheads. Shortly after the break-up of Coal Chamber, 13 years ago, Dez Fafara popped his head back up with this completely new outfit. On their eponymous debut album you still heard quite some hints from Coal Chamber but with what seemed like a much more straightforward thrashy/melodic death metal vibe to it. Quite soon they became notorious for their Californian groove metal on speed and the huge circle pits they created at live gigs. About 3 years ago however, most of the band members turned their backs to DevilDriver. After going on the road for a bit with Coal Chamber, Dez found 3 new members and with an almost completely new line-up they created the 7th album Trust No One.

Don’t go expecting a completely different sound here with the new line-up. Dez and guitarist Mike Spreitzer have clearly held the reigns pretty tight and kept the music in their comfort zone of what they know they do good. Compared to their last album before this release (Winter Kills), which was more moody and a bit lower paced, they seem to have picked up a higher gear in most songs. The culprit behind this slight change is most likely their new drummer Austin D’Amond (Chimaira, Bleed The Sky), which delivers some pretty decent beating that pushes the songs forward. Like I said already, there’s nothing new and exciting to be found here. What does kind of thrills me, is here and there a hint of the good ol’ Coal Chamber. For instance My Night Sky‘s beginning immediately made me think back to their music and so does most of the rest of the song. The voice and pounding slower riffs really hit home on that level. Their overall sound is a quite digestible kind of metal with a heavy groove that doesn’t bring much complexity to it. Just the DevilDriver like we know. If you’re into having a bit of a good time, want to headbang to some cool riffs and drums or shout along to work out some frustrations, you’re at the right spot here!

Talking about those frustrations, lyrically it’s quite clear that this time Dez has been inspired by the feelings brought up by being abandoned by certain former friends and associates. He’s angry, hurt and has a thirst for revenge. With songs like Bad Seed (“you’re a bad person; bad deeds, bad karma; bad seed; stay away from me”), This Deception (“This deception it cuts so deep”), Above It All (“I took you into my house and let you in, like family, just like a friend! Thought I knew you and even more till I saw your face then I wanted no more!”) and most of the others, he makes clear what he thinks of the betrayals he experienced. The cover (a wolf breaking out his sheep’s clothing) and album title Trust No One only supports my observation.

As a Coal Chamber and DevilDriver fan of the first hour I’m ok satisfied with this album and so will probably the big fans. Though I have to admit that the album doesn’t really makes me excited and go like “yeah! awesome!”. There are some really nice songs to be found and nice parts that would probably come across even better live, but I want more! I sort of hope that on future releases they will try to be a bit more adventurous in their song writing. Though hey, you don’t hear me complaining, Trust No One is still a killer metal album.

originally published on www.grimmgent.com

Just Another Devildriver album - 69%

PassiveMetalhead, May 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records

As we bow our heads in declaration that the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal is as good as done we must also raise a glass in admiration of those few bands in the movement that still remain. The movement itself was such an important phase for heavy music. Not only did it bring throaty singers and abrasive instrumentation into the mainstream but it also birthed the next generation of artists like Machine Head and Lamb of God that, while not as popularly, will eventually fill the shoes of pioneers such as Metallica.

Dez Fafara’s second son, Devildriver are such a band that have battled through the ages and still come out strong but their hardest challenge comes in the shape of “Trust No One”. It’s the first album that marks the departure of songwriter and guitarist Jeff Kendrick and drummer John Boeklin back in 2014, not to mention the reformation of Dez’s firstborn band Coal Chamber. Despite this, Dez has assured us that the energy levels of Devildriver are at an all time high however, can we trust him?

First impressions always count and luckily for Devildriver, they always create awesome opening tracks to an album. You’ve got “Pray For Villains” (Pray For Villains), “End Of The Line” (Fury Of the Maker’s Hand) and “Dead To Rights” (Beast) just to name a few but every album they have realised always has had an eruptive entrance that sets the unabashed tone of the following songs. And now we can add ‘Testimony of Truth’ to the list. “Trust No One” starts with vicious blast beats and alarming grooves that give way to Dez’s typical snarls. The belligerent tone is continued on ‘Bad Deeds’ where the guitars almost create a wall of aggressive sound beneath the hard-hitting chorus and Dez officially ditches the guyliner and sees nothing but red in the monstrous ‘Daybreak’ with crushing grooves and shattering drums.

You could argue that although “Trust No One” is a solid and imposing album that is bursting with authoritative atmosphere and you’d be right. But when listening to the album you can’t help but feel Devildriver are playing it safe here. The title track and songs like ‘This Deception’ are fast and hostile tracks and the lyrical content of both songs are clearly aimed at something so deceitful that has provoked the band to this violent nature however it just sounds customarily chaotic. The album as a whole basically sounds like another Devildriver album; the latter track even seems to nick some lyrics and melodies from their past work.

Amongst this feeling of predictable expectancy, Devildriver do introduce a number of experimental moments in “Trust No One”. These features largely take the form of interludes in songs such as ‘My Night Sky’ and ‘Above it All’. The former includes menacingly eerie guitars but the latter is a straightforward groove metal track but has some odd break that stops all momentum Devildriver have built thus far. The album closer, ’For What It’s Worth’, also incorporates a forgiving guitar tone which is a first for such a ruthless band.

“Trust No One” is the quite simply the Devildriver album you’ve already heard.

Originally written for http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/70720/DevilDriver-Trust-No-One/

Should I trust them again? - 77%

southerncall, May 14th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Napalm Records

This is an early review, which might help you get a better impression if compared to further ones to come. I am giving one of my favourite bands another try to finally impress me after the last two (hands down) pretty bad efforts. DevilDriver always meant a lot to me because of their ability to write original, yet simply structured songs with Dez's personal lyrics and the band being accepted / respected by a lot of people in the community, whichever genre they are into.

Although 'Winter Kills' and 'Beast' are listenable releases, the main problem of the band's latest history has been the lack developing the essence of the DD-sound in terms of groove and concise riffing. Don't get me wrong, I like bands evolving throughout their carrier and that's a process, every band runs through at some point (I can compare that to a lot of thrash bands out there, trying to reinvent the wheel, but sound mostly like a mediocre version of their favourite 80s bands), but (at least in DevilDriver's case) you shouldn't change what makes your band unique. They had a huge lineup change before writing this record, so I was really curious about the new release being probably more like 'The Last Kind Words' or 'DevilDriver'.

Listening to the two pre-released songs kind of sums up the feel listening to 'Trust No One'. 'Daybreak' (first one) was really good and sounded catchy, but 'My Night Sky' dropped it heavily in my opinion. That song could have been on every tracklist of the last two records, nothing too bad and nothing outstanding, just forgettable...

The memorable moments of this album are mostly in the middle section of it, songs like 'Trust No One', 'Daybreak' or 'Above It All' really combine the melodic approach of Mike's guitar work, a finally more various performance of Dez (no annoying monotonous screaming, goes back to the old days) and some fucking '0-0-0-0' parts (YES, they need some of them). This could be the formula to go for DD in the future, cause it definitely transfers their raw groove of the older material into their new more technical sound.

Speaking of that, the combination of impressive melodies with the groove of the band seems often to be unlucky and too forced, especially when Dez tries to sound diverse, but drums and guitars just blast him away with for example noodling technical patterns ('Testimony of Truth'). I can understand Mike wants to show his skills (he definitely has), but I think he overdoes it sometimes on this record ('This Deception', solos aren't needed in DD anyway in my opinion), consequently several songs are worse than they could have been with a slightly other approach to the coordination between guitars, vocals and drums. I miss more simplistic riffs here, these made DevilDriver the 'groove monster' they used to be, the majority of riffs sound way more like melodic death metal than ever before.

New drummer Austin D'Amond really delivers on this one, various drumming and perfectly on point, I didn't miss Joehn Boecklin once while listening. Can't say much about Neil Tieman, but I think he brought a lot of new influence to the band since he played in non-metal bands exclusively before joining. According to the booklet Diego Ibarra plays bass, but I didn't hear much of that playing, so there isn't a lot to say about his contribution to this album honestly.

'Trust No One' is a step in the right direction, definitely better than their latest albums, I wouldn't recommend it for non-fans though since this is a record they most likely won't pick up again after listening to it. However, I want to emphasize the following songs for anybody who wants to give it a try: 'Bad Deeds', 'Above It All', 'Daybreak', 'Trust No One', 'For What It's Worth'. I guess, I'll trust them again...