It was hard to miss Dez Fafara’s arrival on the metal scene. With eyes darker than Robert Smith and a stare that made Johnny Rotten look positively placid, in 1997 Coal Chamber had the world (of teenage angst metal) at their feet. Yet alas, in a fable so common among those bands who were sent to the gallows on the nu-metal wagon, Coal Chambers blistering debut was never subsequently matched either in energy or musicianship, and the world quickly tired of the goth-cum-metal act.
Never one to lapse out of the limelight for too long, Dez returned a year after Coal Chamber’s eventual and long overdue demise in 2002 with a new band, new sound and, thankfully significantly less eyeliner. Fronting new project Devildriver, their debut effort was met with widespread interest but unsurprisingly found its way onto the sale shelves mighty quickly, failing to leave more than a dent on the surface of metal-dom.
Undaunted by their underwhelming level of impact thus far, Devildriver’s second attempt at breaking big into the metal scene is presumably their last. With such pressure upon their shoulders, it will come as no surprise that Dez and his faceless backing band have tuned down, turned up and returned with what they dub as a “huge step up from our debut… this is a benchmark metal release”. Although modesty seems as elusive an attribute as ever to some of our Yankee neighbours, there may well be some truth in their claim.
To be fair it isn’t like Devildriver appear to have a metal messiah complex, and in reality when a band is brought together through a love of BBQs and extreme music one gets the sense that being remembered for creating a groundbreaking technically astute record isn’t quite as high on the agenda as the tried and tested concept of playing a few shows, getting blind drunk and hopefully not getting dropped before having the chance to record a DVD.
If these are indeed the parameters by which we are to measure Devildriver’s sophomore release, the bench and mark are suddenly brought much closer together. Although the song structure of soft intro, big riff break into verse, chorus, verse, chorus and outro does wear thin rapidly, numbers like Before The Hangman’s Noose and the title track provide some finely executed metal-by-numbers (although someone really should tell Dez that “anyway the wind blows” worked much better when Freddy Mercury sang it).
Hold Back The Day towers above the majority of tracks on the album in much the manner that Goliath dwarfed David. The key factor to its exclusivity is the melody of both the lead and rhythm guitar licks, which have regrettably been sacrificed elsewhere on the LP in the name of brutality and aggression. The sad fact is that while they do pull off a sound more menacing than a pit-bull on speed, heaviness alone doesn’t make for memorable records in my humble opinion and you may need to listen to this album repeatedly for a week as I’ve just done to make it stick.
If Thom Yorke does have prophetic tendencies, I’m certain he named the tenth track of OK Computer in summation of Devildriver’s contribution to metal (go on, check!). Admittedly the chances are slim, but nevertheless he would’ve been onto something. With so many critics to impress, one can only hope that Devildriver will earn themselves some much needed integrity by pulling off their new material pretty damn well on stage.