DEVILDRIVER
"The Last Kind Words"

(Roadrunner)

01. Not All Who Wander Are Lost
02. Clouds Over California
03. Bound By the Moon
04. Horn of Betrayal
05. These Fighting Words
06. Head on To Heartache (Let Them Rot)
07. Burning Sermon
08. Monsters of the Deep
09. Tirades of Truth
10. When Summoned
11. The Axe Shall Fall

RATING: 9/10

Trim the fat, tighten the screws until the metal squeals, and make every note as intense as the scream of a swandiving suicider — DEVILDRIVER have finally delivered their masterwork, forever shutting the door on frontman Dez Fafara's questionable nu-metal roots and hammering home an uncompromising, bruising, riff-bristling set that should leave plenty more than its share of blood on the floor.

There's an almost desperate, do-or-die feel to this record, as if the band were sprinting through the whole thing with Bigfoot at their heels — it's simply intense as fuck, and it never stops to give you breathing room or slip in any high-fives to radio consideration. Hell, even when there are melodies (and there are plenty – the guitars drip with Swedish-style twin leads), they're propelled by blast beats and spat out of the speakers with the velocity of bullets. It's well into the fourth song, the solo of "Horn of Betrayal", before it even feels like you can so much as blink — "The Last Kind Words" just comes at you that hard and fast.

And the hell of it is, the shit is catchy too! Even with Fafara yowling through bloodsoaked teeth and his wild-eyed band cranking the whole thing right off the rails, there are identifiable choruses, hooks galore, and enough pit-friendly breakdowns to create seas of writhing bodies and broken bones. Even a more quote-unquote "midtempo" song like "Head On To Heartache (Let Them Rot)" is as relentless as a rain of hammers — insistent riffing, a nonstop avalanche of drumming, and Fafara gritting out every syllable like it's causing him physical pain.

And dynamic? The grinding sludge of "Monsters of the Deep" lurches almost impossibly out of the speakers, coming as even more of a surprise after the tightly-wound clockspring of tension that is "Burning Sermon". DEVILDRIVER manage to pull of a trick few can master in metal — making a record with peaks and valleys and lots of room for memorable passages, without letting up on the intensity with hackneyed ballads or obviously watered-down numbers. The band (ably assisted by Jason Suecof, who may have just turned in his best production job to date) hammer home songs that pummel the listener into submission without getting monotonous or letting the songs bloat into repetitive quasi-epics.

Any time a band does a good record, some hack calls it "their 'Reign In Blood'", or "their 'Master of Puppets'". Here, DEVILDRIVER have created their "Slaughter of the Soul" — a record that doesn't change the rules of the game so much as distills and compresses the band's essence into a concise, lethal, near-perfect package. Pick an American heavy metal band (including most, if not all, of their labelmates). DEVILDRIVER just beat them at their own game and drew 'em a new line in the sand to cross. Easily one of the most impressive metal offerings of 2007, if not the last few years, and the pinnacle to date of this entire new-wave-of-whatever the scene has been riding.

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