Hailing from Santa Barbara, California, DevilDriver is the lesser-known brainchild of vocalist Dez Fafara, better known for his work in the nu metal band Coal Chamber. This year, the band released their tenth full-length studio album and the second half of their double album, Dealing with Demons Vol. II. The band has called the double album “the record of [their] career,” considering it to be the pinnacle of their work. The band’s sound is primarily groove metal, a genre that rose out of the new wave of American heavy metal with bands such as Pantera and Machine Head. DevilDriver uses elements from these bands as well as from several other genres, with members stating influences from death metal, thrash metal, melodeath, and nu metal. This combination has given the band a very powerful and unique sound.
Dealing with Demons Vol. II consists of 9 songs, with its predecessor having contained 10 tracks. As with any DevilDriver record, their sound is simple but heavy. None of their work is particularly flashy in any technical element, but the consistent power and energy they bring are what really captivates the listener. The vocals are the most prominent part of the mix, which is a bit unusual for most bands of this style, but it works quite well for DevilDriver. Fafara has a very distinctive voice, and its percussiveness makes his vocals almost seem like another instrument at times. This album features primarily scream-singing and growling, keeping true to their simple nature.
The guitar work also mirrors this, bringing plenty of straightforward but heavy riffs and catchy choruses. One surprise for me was that I heard several guitar solos on the album, as well as plenty of leads scattered through the choruses, which is a bit rare from DevilDriver, but it all worked quite well. The guitar tone is reminiscent of their other recent works, with crunchy lows and rounded leads. The bass isn’t prominent individually, but that’s also typical of the band’s sound; instead, it works with the beefy guitar tones to create a very powerful and heavy wall of sound. The drumming on the album is closer technically to the band’s newer stuff, featuring less double kick action and more cymbal and tom grooves. The tone of the drums that the band uses is a bit unique in that it’s very tight but not too bright, and it’s not as prominent in the mix as many other metal bands. I think it’s perfect because it’s just loud enough for the intricacies to shine through without stealing glory from the guitars and bass and still letting the vocals carry part of the rhythm.
From a musical perspective, the band’s sound has matured quite a bit over the years. The new project follows their trend of slowing down in comparison to their early stuff, but in exchange gaining more musicality and cohesiveness. However, I personally still prefer their older music, simply because the sheer amount of energy they had back then was unbeatable. While plenty of that energy remains in the band’s sound today, the effects of age seem to be catching up to the members. In the end, I think it’s simply a matter of preference, as their music is, and always has been, quite solid.
Overall, I would agree that this double album is the culmination of DevilDriver’s work; while it doesn’t really explore any new territory for the band, it stays true to their sound and combines the best elements of all the music they’ve produced in the last two decades. There were two songs that stood out to me: “Nothing Lasts Forever” has some really catchy chorus melodies, and “Through the Depths” is very reminiscent of their older sound. The rest of the record was tasteful and satisfactory but not particularly outstanding. While it didn’t instantly captivate me like 2005’s The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand and 2007’s The Last Kind Words, Dealing with Demons Volume II is a good representation of what the band has to offer; it’s a solid album for enjoyers of groove metal and a good listen overall.