This is one of those releases that I’ve been anticipating for quite a while now. DevilDriver always leave me hanging at the end of every album and every show waiting for more. Just like its four predecessors, Beast, is undeniably DevilDriver. That just happens to be a very good thing if you’re already a fan of theirs. Dez Fafara (vocals), Mike Spreitzer (guitars), Jeff Kendrick (guitars), Jon Miller (bass), and John Boecklin (drums) aren’t accommodating to anybody on this album except for their fans. This isn’t an album that is going to convert a legion of fans overnight, but it might regain a couple – if any were stupid enough to leave in the first place. There are no ballads here, no throwaway songs, and no interludes, but there is no shortage of hatred to be found here.
While their last release, Pray For Villains, showed off the maturity of the band and their ability to form a tight package and kick some major ass, Beast, sounds a lot more like Fafara and company digging deep down to recapture the unmistakable catchiness found on their self-titled debut and combining it with the raw emotion found on The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand. The opening track, ‘Dead To Rights’ opens up with a chugging drum and guitar combination for almost a minute before Dez shines with some of his finest, fastest vocal work to date. ‘Bring The Fight (To The Floor)’ hopefully will become an instant moshpit classic that can nicely sit next to ‘Meet The Wretched’ on the setlist. The feel of the song makes you want to start a giant tornado in the middle of the crowd or at least windmill until your neck snaps.
‘Hardened’ starts out with an ominous introduction followed by one of DevilDriver’s heaviest songs (and also their longest to date clocking in at almost six minutes). John Boecklin shows off why he deserves to be mentioned more often in the elite group of modern metal drummers before giving way to arguably the best guitar solo on the album. The introduction to ‘Shitlist’ borrows a similar intro from 2005’s ‘End Of The Line’, but thankfully the song takes its own identity shortly after. ‘Talons Out (Teeth Sharpened)’ turns out to be one of the coolest songs they have written and probably my favorite song on the album. The guitar sounds a bit out of place in comparison to the rest of the song and that’s why it turned out so awesome if you ask me. When I hear it I think of the annoying blender sound on Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Sunspots’, except this isn’t remotely annoying.
‘You Make Me Sick’ is a little bit repetitive for my taste at times but is still an enjoyable track that makes five minutes still go by really fast. ‘Coldblooded’ takes a turn to the darker side of the band which works very well because it’s impossible to sit still when listening to the track. ‘Blur’ is an awesome song with one of the greatest choruses they’ve written. “I don’t know you, but I fucking hate you” sums up my feelings towards most of humanity fairly well, and it’s nice to see that plastered in a song and then stuck in your head in the kind of way that REDRUM was painted on the door in ‘The Shining’. Not to be outdone, ‘The Blame Game’ picks up with the same addictive hooks as ‘Blur’ and seems to be pointing the finger at most of the scumbags that we meet from day to day.
As it winds down, ‘Black Soul Choir’ begins. This song is a definite keeper with a devious, morbid sermon being delivered in the middle. The rest of the song is used to showcase the musical talent of the rest of the band that sometimes gets overshadowed by such powerful vocals. ‘Crowns Of Creation’ begins as pretty much on par for a DevilDriver song until it really comes into its own dead in the middle with a bit of fancy guitar work and I guess what they’d consider experimentation here with the instruments overshadowing the vocals. With that being said, it’s still a rather powerful song. The album closes out with ‘Lend Myself To The Night’ which is very instrumentally driven much like the prior few songs. The song serves as a very nice closing track because while it’s still heavy, it has a strange yet distinct feeling of a chapter coming to a close.
When it’s all said and done, DevilDriver have released another quality album that will end up on more than a handful of year end lists. This album has an identity of its own although no songs sound like a deviation from their prior releases. Be sure to pick this one up on February 22nd, 2011. For as much as I hate number based reviews, if I had to give this album a grade it’d get an 8.5. There’s always going to be room for improvement, but there’s nothing that leaves you feeling like it doesn’t live up to the highest expectations. If you’re already a fan, you won’t be disappointed; if you’re not a fan then you’re missing out. While they’re not reinventing the proverbial wheel here, they’re making sure that their wheel is smooth yet rock fucking hard.