Talk about raising expectations, eh? It comes with the territory when news is announced of an album made by a band that includes in its ranks drummer Vinny Appice (HEAVEN & HELL, BLACK SABBATH, DIO) and bassist Rex Brown (DOWN, PANTERA), as well as vocalist Jason "Dewey" Bragg (PISSING RAZORS) and guitarist Mark Zavon (RATT, W.A.S.P., 40 CYCLE HUM). The band is KILL DEVIL HILL, the album self-titled, and the music a pretty darn good brand of accessible hard rock and metal that most often brings to mind ALICE IN CHAINS, secondarily Ronnie James Dio-fronted BLACK SABBATH, and familiar flavors from some other "name" acts.
Would I buy it had I not gotten the promotional download? I would (and probably still will). That's because the self-titled KILL DEVIL HILL album is a mighty good from-to-back listen that includes several good songs and a handful that are no worse than above-average/solid. It's the ALICE IN CHAINS (AIC) vibe that will hit you most directly, which can be attributed in large part to Bragg's Layne Staley-isms. But more than just the dark tone and the manner in which Bragg sways and stretches notes is also the often slow-to-mid tempos and the lava-flow riffing from Zavon (who busts out some strong solos too), which in the latter cases can also bring to mind BLACK SABBATH and maybe even more so the riff/bass burn of HEAVEN & HELL's "The Devil I Know".
Yes sir, some tasty metal is served. Album-opener "War Machine" may be the best of the bunch and also one of the few up-tempo, tough groovers on the album. Tied for a close second are the AIC-ish "Hangman" and "Gates of Hell" (the latter nice 'n spooky), and "Voodoo Doll", which boasts a chorus pattern that is one part Ozzy and one part BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. But it is not as though those tracks are the undisputed winners either since the SABBATH-plodding "Rise from the Shadows", the crawling and very AIC "We're All Gonna Die" (with a chorus that keeps coming until you're hooked) and "Time & Time Again" are all keepers. The tempo is upped again on "Old Man" and "Revenge", both featuring attention-getting Zavon riffs, while the acoustic swamp-stroll of "Mysterious Ways" works as a decent change of pace, if little else, although the general vibe of the album remains. Though "Up in Flames" still comes with that slithering AIC thing it also departs just a bit into something that vaguely recalls AUDIOSLAVE, perhaps due to Bragg sounding like a more restrained Chris Cornell. Not exactly easy to find fault with any of that, is it?
That's because KILL DEVIL HILL is not an album that requires detailed analysis to appreciate. Its sole mission seems to be one based in listener appreciation for no-frills metal/rock that grooves and hooks with just enough grit to maintain street-cred with the perpetual naysayers. Mission accomplished.