So, what were you really expecting? Did you think that just because vocalist Dez Fafara spent the Winter and Spring touring around with Coal Chamber that the next Devildriver release would be softer and more full of nu-metal elements? It's amazing to me how many times prior to this release making it's rounds that I read just that online. Fans really can be stupid sometimes. For those that need a revisionary lesson in history, Fafara formed Devildriver to be as brutal as possible and as "anti-Coal Chamber" as anything he could make. The odds are that Devildriver will never even resemble Coals Chamber, nu-metal, or anything with the word "soft" in it for as long as they are a band. WINTER KILLS is a seriously intense effort from the band I feel is the best extreme metal band of the last decade. Start to finish, WINTER KILLS does just that - kills.
There's really never any surprises to a new Devildriver release. They are an extreme metal band that walks right up to the edges of Death Metal at times, but never quite goes all the way over to that blackened side. Instead, they keep just enough groove in their music to make them that much more enjoyable. They remind me, in a lot of ways, of a harder Machine Head or a very, very slightly softer Kataklysm. The riffs from guitarists Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer on songs like "Desperate Times" sounds about as close to Kataklysm as anything this band has ever done. It's fast, frenetic, and yet follows very tightly to the rhythm provided by drummer John Boecklin and bassist Chris Towning. Other songs like "Ruthless" have a bit more groove like you might find on a Machine Head album, but no less ferocity to speak of.
Vocally, it's Dez Fafara being Dez Fafara once again. He rages throughout the entire disc, without anything resembling a "singing" moment anywhere to be found. Good! He sounds great. Songs like "The Appetite" just power along from start to finish, with Fafara driving each one with his always brutal aggression adding to the mix.
Ultimately though, what makes WINTER KILLS such a great release is it's focus. The songwriting for this simply as good as the band has done since THE FURY OF THE MAKER'S HAND. Songs like "Gutted" and "Caring's Overkill" are really as good as anything the band has ever done. From start until one song before the finish (the last song is a cover of the electronic band Awolnation's "Sail" which I could have done without), Devildriver have put together an extremely enjoyable collection of songs that smash you in the head like a sledgehammer swung by a serial killer would.
PITRIFF RATING - 98/100 - Nothing more than a brilliant heavy metal bludgeoning, WINTER KILLS is as nearly perfect a release for a fan of the more extreme metal of today as could ever be. After a very dull release with BEAST, Fafara and company have come roaring all the way back with this release. In a word, crushing!