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Killer Be Killed - Reluctant Hero (Album Review)

Friday, 20 November 2020 Written by Jon Stickler

Photo: Greg La Ferman

The idea of Frankenstein’s monster-style hybrid bands has often suggested more of an exercise in fleeting novelty than lasting creativity. Thankfully, the returning Killer Be Killed, an all-star project comprising Greg Puciato, formerly of Dillinger Escape Plan, Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and Troy Sanders of Mastodon, pick up where their 2014 debut left off with ‘Reluctant Hero’, retaining everything you’d expect from the pedigree of the musicians involved.

Fans of heavy music will be delighted by the varied styles that make up much of Killer Be Killed’s second meeting of minds. With each musician’s influences intermingling across its 11 tracks, and Converge’s Ben Koller making his recording bow after taking over drumming duties from Dave Elitch in 2015, everyone gets a shot at bringing their own strengths to the table.

Beginning on familiar ground for Cavalera, Deconstructing Self-Destruction’s killer Sepultura-style groove hits like a slap in the face. A whirlwind of guitar chugs and ferocious riffs lock into place and knuckle-breaking drums exhibit the band’s formidable intensity straight out of the traps.

The contrasting tone of Sanders’ gruff yet melodic vocals play off against Puciato’s towering screams, a formula that’s repeated over the bulk of the record while Cavalera’s bludgeoning grunts provide some depth.

The sub-genre mashing and big rock refrains on Dream Gone Bad and the early Mastodon-esque Left of Center follow a similar template with Koller driving everything along at a breathless pace. As things unfold, it’s clear that this isn't an exercise in massaging bloated egos between touring but a collective with the wind in their sails. 

The shifting tempos of Inner Calm From Outer Storms, the punky Filthy Vagabonds and slow-burning From A Crowded Wound barrel forth with larynx-shredding aggression and heaviness, with the three-pronged vocal attack shifting in and out of the fray effortlessly. 

Animus is a thrashing 67 seconds of blood and thunder with Cavalera’s signature growl resembling a pack of cigarettes impersonating Tom Waits. The punishing breakdowns on Dead Limbs, meanwhile, pushes a boundary or two for an unpredictable psychedelic affair. It’s not until the closing title track that the band ease off the gas for a brooding and emotive moment of contemplation.

The real appeal of ‘Reluctant Hero’ lies in harnessing the creative essence of each of its protagonists’ main bands. That, along with their knack for dropping more hooks than a tackle box into each song, amounts to a record that easily lives up to the sum of its parts. A clear career high point, albeit among many.

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