Operating safely below the hype machine's radar has allowed DEVILDRIVER to spend the last several years growing and evolving into a beast all their own; blissfully safe from scrutiny's scalpel. While their body of work and rabid fan base undoubtedly ranks them right up there with the likes of LAMB OF GOD as the cream of the American metal crop, they've escaped the burden of being cast as poster children for whatever "scene" us media types have chosen to associate them with. That being said, I highly doubt that these SoCal soldiers really give a shit either way and would be pounding away just as hard if they were still lingering behind a closed garage door. So while every band and his brother strive to push the envelope of extremity by being the fastest, heaviest, or most intense dogs in the yard, DEVILDRIVER has opted to ignore the insanity and focus on the one thing many in today's music have forgotten about — the song itself.
A definite standout in a year already filled with impressive releases, "Pray For Villains" is a damn solid listen from start to finish. The immediacy of this album is only one of its many qualities. Straight out of the gate, this fucker reaches out with an iron grip that refuses to let go. The calculated combo of rapid-fire riffing, gigantic grooves and anthem-like choruses makes "Pray For Villains" a disc worthy of an extended stay in your player. The opening title track, an energetic ode to the anti-hero, sets a mood of chest-pounding intensity that carries throughout this sonic shoot-fight. With a chug reminiscent of PANTERA's "Reinventing The Steel", "Pure Sincerity" could very well be a boon to the chiropractic industry with the bouts of involuntary head-bobbing it causes. Metallic aggression abounds, but this is not an album void of dynamic swerves and forays outside of the DEVILDRIVER norm. Layers of lead guitar that run the gamut from exotic to melodic add a diverse flavor to the likes "Back With A Vengeance" and "I've Been Sober". Each member's ability to work in unison, while allowing each other plenty of room to shine as individuals, makes "Pray For Villains" an incredibly textured and organic listen. This stellar interplay between the musicians assures that no single part outshines another, yet nothing gets buried in the mix. Again, these dudes showed up for the song, not the sizzle.
Guitarists Michael Spreitzer and Jeffry Kendrick define the modern guitar duo with their calculated volley of lead and rhythm work, most notably during the melo-death fury of "Waiting For November" and variety-laden "Teach Me To Whisper". Of course, credit needs to given to bassist Jonathan Miller and drummer John Boecklin (who deserves a shot at the "Ass-Kicker Of The Year" award with his performance) for laying a foundation as strong as any I've heard this year. Of course, riding atop this well-oiled machine is Dez Fafara, who gives the performance of his career on this album. A far cry from his COAL CHAMBER days, Dez has mastered the art of the audible snarl. Laying his soul on the line, the vocalist moves beyond the typical doom n' gloom lyrical themes and instead attempts to inspire the listener with his words. His infection vocal patterns only accentuate his impactful performance.
By far their best album to date, "Pray For Villains" has all the makings of a metal classic. The quality of songwriting and musicianship going on here is second to none. Not only does this disc hit hard from the first listen, but it will continue to grow with each listen. A shoo-in for 2009's top ten list.