Album review

DevilDriver : DevilDriver
Roadrunner Records

DevilDriver : DevilDriverMaynard James Keenan laid aside his trusty Tool to employ a more mellifluous sound palette within A Perfect Circle. Dez Fafara of Coal Chamber has journeyed in the opposite direction - moving from heavy metal to the kind of relentless industrial noise perhaps best kept for sandblasting those stubbornly sticky bits off the ovens of hell.
    It's not actually the fault of the genre. The rawest and ugliest noise can blossom into bloody and unexpected beauty; the least promising of ingredients can form themselves into something violently new. Not here, though. This is the sound of a bunch of blokes who left the studio cliché generator running and went out for a beer.

If you're looking for exploration or experimentation, you won't find it here. This is full-on, head-down, twice-the-speed-of-sound standard-issue death metal; performances which question nothing and add nothing to material already testing the bounds of musical redundance. There's only one emotional register - cartoon rage; only one noise level - eleven. Individual musicianship is barely discernible under a compressed barrage of overdriven bewilderment; the drums provide not so much power and pace as clatter and confusion.
    Almost anything can be salvaged by an outstanding voice however, and sadly Fafara's vocals are closer to the forced rasp of a malfunctioning machine than the roar of a raging beast or the howl of an alien outsider. Nevertheless, he scrapes and wheezes his way through a dozen tracks without ever feeling the need for variation in pace, delivery or volume.

Meanwhile, the lyrics make much of questions such as "what does it take to be a man?" and fire irritable salvos at concepts like "grandiosity" and "your sickening pompous ways." Fafara's answer to mankind's ills seems to be a queasy mixture of fury fuelled by social conscience ("go down town and meet the wretched . . . we're taking what they're giving") and bloody vengeance pulled straight from the script of a sword-and-sorcery PS2 game ("I am the one that you need . . . the devil's son has just begun.") Add a sprinkling of Crowley quotes and cover art bristling with gothic fonts, arcane script, animal claws and zodiacal sigils, and the picture is miserably predictable.

If you have a use for all that, fine. If you have an invitation to the midwinter bash at Klingon HQ, take this along - it'll go down a storm with the painsticks and blood wine. But DevilDriver won't be making many converts with this dismal debut.

:: Clare O'Brien

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