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DevilDriver - Dealing With Demons I (Album Review)

Friday, 02 October 2020 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Stephanie Cabral

DevilDriver’s eighth album has an appropriate title. Although the Californian melo-death crew were a cornerstone of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (thanks to triumphs like ‘The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand’ and ‘Pray for Villains’), the 2010s were not kind.

The dwindling quality of work on ‘Beast’ and ‘Winter Kills’ began to turn acclaim into apathy, and disinterest hit a nadir with the 2018 country covers album ‘Outlaws ‘til the End’, which was met with either perplexion or shrugs.​ 

Furthermore, in the past two years alone, frontman Dez Fafara’s wife has battled cancer, the band’s home state has been ravaged by wildfires and a pandemic has ground life to a halt.

However, the old cliche states that great art comes from adversity. And, while labelling it “great” may be a slight overstatement, ‘Dealing with Demons I’ is indeed a return to form for an outfit that many have long since written off.

DevilDriver’s eighth full length nails the fundamentals of what their fans want. Namely, that’s big, heavy grooves, catchy-yet-extreme choruses and crunching death metal riffs, delivered atop a ceaselessly energetic wrecking ball. 

There’s a ferocious succinctness to ‘Dealing…’ that its creators haven’t exhibited in years. It resonates in the powerful refrains of Witches and The Damned Don’t Cry, while the album’s minuscule 39-minute running time leaves no room for filler. Everything is lean and driven by intent.

Simultaneously, as focused as ‘Dealing…’ is, it’s also far from barebones. There are twists and turns that, while not exactly prog-rock, do at least make DevilDriver feel fresh and eager. Wishing sees Fafara dabble with clean singing (thankfully the only noticeable hanger-on from the otherwise bizarre ‘Outlaws…’), the riffs in Keep Away from Me have a downtuned, Gojira-esque grit, and Iona’s dark edge borders on black metal.

While these new flourishes are not pronounced enough to win over DevilDriver’s critics, when combined with renewed, tight aggression they do signal a band that’s been rejuvenated. Whether or not that’s due to the awfulness of their recent years lighting a fire under them remains to be seen. Either way, it’s great having this lot back up to snuff.

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