Way back in 1997 Coal Chamber arrived on the scene, riding the then-popular wave of nu-metal. The had a goth look and a Korn sound that brought them to prominence behind songs like "Loco" and "Big Truck." They would peak in 1999 when they released Chamber Music before disappearing following the 2002 release, Dark Days.
The band was disbanded by frontman Dez Fafara, who chose to explore the more extreme styles of metal. This led to the formation of DevilDriver. Their eponymous 2003 debut was pretty good, vastly different than his Coal Chamber output, but it failed to make much of an impression on me at the time. That was followed up with the 2005 release of The Fury of Our Maker's Hand, which I never bothered to pick up. We are now in 2007 and the third DevilDriver album is here, and it is a blistering collection of pure modern American metal that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go.
The Last Kind Words is a definite step up from the debut DevilDriver album. The songs offer up more complexity, some insane drumming, and riffs that while blast your face clean off. DevilDriver has become much more than Coal Chamber part 2, that would have been easy. Still, it has taken a few albums for the potential to start showing. Now, I know that I haven't listened to their sophomore release, but I can imagine the middling steps taken to get from Coal Chamber to the DevilDriver debut to this release. Their debut had nu-metal tinges woven through the more brutal metal that was being developed, where this one is more metal than anything else.
DevilDriver is a mash of metalcore, thrash, death all meeting at the crossroad of melody. They cannot be cleanly categorized as any one of those genres, but they aren't trailblazers either. When I finished the album entirely, I immediately saw strength and weakness built into the collection as a whole. Without breaking it down song by song, it was easily recognizable that The Last Kind Words was a solid album that plays on the fringe of extreme while remaining accessible to a more mainstream audience with its use of rhythm grooves.
On the flipside, there is a strong sense of sameness throughout that was impossible to ignore. There was definitely a lack of range in terms of the style. Yes, the songs stand apart, but the pace and speed is consistent throughout. Despite the sameness, it was very easy to stay on the positive side of the coin because every track is solid in delivering the heavy that I crave. And they deliver the heavy with such insane precision that the sameness criticism could be turned around in favor of being consistently excellent throughout.
The Last Kind Words is a musical tour de force and a tribute to the talents playing behind Dez. The twin guitars of Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick are monolithic. The two of them create this thick wall of sound that is dense, fast, and even provide some pretty good solos. As good as the guitats are, the real star is John Boecklin, whose drumming is some of the best I have heard recently. He is easily in the same league as Chris Adler (Lamb of God) and Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall), the two drummers I credit as getting me to listen closer to drumming to begin with. The double basswork, blast beats, and lack of repetition, not to mention precision, are unparallelled. Then there is Dez, whose voice has left the raps and rhymes behind in favor of a more growled singing style that better suits the decidedly more metal stylings of DevilDriver.
So, when you choose to spin this album up, and I guarantee you will, you will be greeted by one of the more satisfying metal releases of the year. Pay particular attention to the songs: "Clouds Over California," Bound by the Moon," "Horn of Betrayal," "Head on to Heartache (Let Them Rot)," and "Monsters of the Deep." You will likely be playing them a lot.
Bottomline. Forget that he was ever in Coal Chamber, and you will find an exciting metallic blast that should not be dismissed. Heavy, fast, catchy, DevilDriver has delivered an album that solidifies them as a force to be reckoned with.