DevilDriver's first two albums, 2003's self-titled LP and 2005's The Fury of Our Maker's Hand, combined the savagery of classic thrash and death metal with some modern musical touches. More importantly, the discs established frontman Dez Fafara (ex-Coal Chamber) as more than a casualty of the nü-metal movement. At times, however, the records seemed a bit too much like apologies for a misguided past. Well, Fafara is done apologizing. DevilDriver's new disc, The Last Kind Words (out June 5), is a scathing declaration of war to anyone who continues to deny the band's importance.
"The 'last kind words' could be 'f--- you' before complete annihilation," Fafara said. "For me, this album is about being motivated to stand up to the punishment of being a human and to have the character in you to go on when all people want to do is hold you down."
Even so, the album isn't just a tirade of hostility. Lyrically, Fafara also aims to be constructive, addressing the importance of living in the moment ("Not All Who Wander Are Lost"), band solidarity ("Bound by the Moon") and moving on after the ugly demise of friendship ("Clouds Over California").
"Lyrically, it's dark and foreboding," Fafara said. "But it's gonna give you inspiration to go through this earthly experience and keep kicking."
As insightful as the best lyrics are, it's the band's musical evolution that makes The Last Kind Words truly exceptional. Like DevilDriver's other albums, this one is filled with jackhammer beats, chainsaw riffs and demonic roars, but the compositions are more complex and progressive, interlaced with melodic and textural nuances and stunning rhythmic variation.
"I think we knew we had to reach within ourselves as a team and pull something out that was really different," Fafara said. "Everyone totally put aside their egos and stepped up to the plate to do what needed to be done. In America right now, there's so much of that sing-songy metal going on, so we knew if we did something totally balls-out it was going to be well-received."
As if intuitively sensing that they needed extra time to make album number three eclipse their first two discs, guitarists Mike Spreitzer, Jeffrey Kendrick and bassist Jon Miller started writing riffs immediately after the completion of The Fury of Our Maker's Hand. Song parts were finessed on the road and then everything was assembled in the rehearsal room. By the time DevilDriver entered the studio on November 13 with Jason Suecof (Trivium, Chimaira), they were ready to hit "record."
"There was literally no preproduction to be done," Fafara said. "Jason said, 'Wow man, these are ready to go.' And everyone didn't just stick to his instrument either. The guys switched guitars and basses a lot — whatever was best for the song. Sometimes, if some guy writes a song, he may not be the best person to track it, and he's gotta be able to give that up to someone else. And when you see that happen with no fights, that's an amazing thing."
The only moments of tension came from working with Suecof, who Fafara described as "a total wing nut."
"We couldn't be more polar opposite, and I had to tell him to shut the f--- up so many times," Fafara recalled. "We actually got into it about two or three times where he would criticize something and I would just be like, 'You suck, you've got no groove.' But the friction worked and we actually came out of it the best of friends. More importantly, he really captured this band, and now I feel like it would be hard to work with anyone else."
There's no question that Suecof and his bandmates played a major role in making The Last Kind Words the most impacting DevilDriver disc to date. However, it was Fafara's clear focus and refusal to compromise that really drove DevilDriver to new heights.
"Years ago I used to think about commerce as an artist, but now I'm just thinking of pure art," he said. "So hopefully what we put out is going to be a kick in the face to what's going on in metal right now. That's the most important goal."
The rest of the week's metal news:
According to Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, his annual Gigantour festival won't be happening this summer, but will return in 2008. Mustaine said time constraints forced the suspension of the tour, which was launched in 2005 and featured Megadeth, Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy and more last year. ... Behemoth, who'll be on this summer's Ozzfest, have unveiled the track list for their forthcoming album, The Apostasy, which hits stores July 17. The LP will boast 11 cuts, including "Slaying the Prophets Ov Isa," "At the Left Hand Ov God" and "Christgrinding Avenue." ...
Seems the Red Chord have had a change of heart concerning the name of their forthcoming album. Instead of Birdbath, which frontman Guy Kozowyk told MTV News last year would be the LP's title, the band is going with Prey for Eyes, and it will land in stores this summer. Produced by Zeuss (Hatebreed, Shadows Fall), the disc will boast 14 tracks, including "It Runs in the Family," "Intelligence Has Been Compromised" and "Birdbath." ... P.O.D. have reportedly enlisted Suicidal Tendencies frontman Mike Muir to guest on their upcoming, yet-untitled album. According to singer Sonny Sandoval, P.O.D. are honored that Muir would lend his talents to the LP. No word yet on when the album might surface or what tracks it will include. ...
The Sword have announced that they'll be taking the summer off from touring so they can continue writing material for the forthcoming follow-up to their debut LP, 2006's Age of Winters. "We have withdrawn to our stronghold to forge new implements of sonic destruction and plan the next phase of our campaign of conquest," the band said in a statement. "Look for us when the days grow short and the air turns cold." ... Every Time I Die's forthcoming album The Big Dirty has been set for a September 4 release date through Ferret. The disc was produced by Steve Evetts, who has worked with the Dillinger Escape Plan and Sepultura in the past. ... Former Motograter guitarist Matt "Nuke" Nunes has aligned himself with bassist Johnny Montanio for a new project they're calling Curiosity Killed the Cop. CKTC have written seven tracks but are still light on members, and they've been auditioning singers, guitarists and drummers. Interested in trying out? E-mail the band at email@example.com. ...
The release date for Horse the Band's forthcoming album A Natural Death has been pushed back to August 28 from the previously announced June 26 date. The band's label has not offered an explanation for the delay, but fans can head on over to Horse the Band's MySpace page to check out the album's first single, "Murder." ... Katatonia, Scar Symmetry, Insomnium and Swallow the Sun will team up in a few months for a North American run. The tour is set to get under way September 4 in West Springfield, Virginia, and run through September 26 in Houston. ... Fireball Ministry have begun writing new material for their next studio offering. Frontman the Rev. James A. Rota II said in a statement that the next LP is "going to be a bit different than our last three. We've definitely decided to take the band to some new territory, but it's definitely Fireball Ministry." It's possible the band will preview some of the latest material when it plays a show June 23 in Malibu, California, with Fu Manchu. ...
Iced Earth have a new guitarist — with a pretty metal name — in Troy Steele. "Troy did a few solos on the new record and will be touring with us," main man Jon Schaffer said in a statement. "He's been a friend of mine for about 10 years and is from the Indianapolis area. He's by far the best guitar player in Indy and will be bringing some cool vibes to the table." The band's forthcoming EP, Overture of the Wicked, will land in stores June 5 and feature two cuts: "Ten Thousand Strong" and the three-part "Something Wicked Trilogy." ... Blessed By a Broken Heart have wrapped recording their Century Media debut, Pedal to the Metal. The album was produced by GGGarth (Atreyu, L7) and is being eyed for release later in the year. "We are very excited to announce that our record is finally done," the band said in a statement. "This is and will always be the greatest record of all time — well, except for maybe Rick Astley's Whenever You Need Somebody, but it sure comes close."