So frustrating! Let me first state that I have no axe to grind here, either with the band Devildriver or it’s leader Dez Fafara (beyond being absolutely horrified by that country album he recorded a little while back!). As a reviewer I try to remain positive throughout, but, seriously, Dez and his bros make it difficult at times to keep sunnyside up on this album!

Maybe the alarm bells started ringing when I read that this was the first part of a separately-released double album… I don’t know about you, but Twin Turbos always springs to mind, ya know? One good album outta two mediocre ones is a situation that helps nobody. But it certainly seems to be a situation that’s on the cards after a few spins of Dealing With Demons I

When Dez Fafara is good, he’s actually one of the most compelling and interesting characters on the modern-day metal scene; there are three songs on this album that fall into this category, of which more later. However for the rest of the album the band are seemingly content to slip into a rut of vacuous noise-making, a loud and angry sour mash of Lamb of God and Machine Head that wakes a lot of waves but ends up sounding well, washed up…

… Actually that’s a little harsh – Devildriver are better than the 2020 iteration of Machine Head for sure. But it cannot be denied that songs like opening track Keep Away From Me do a lot of huffing and puffing, just like those two bands I mentioned, without really getting anywhere. The band’s chops are great – drummer Austin D’Amond repurposes Alex Van Halen‘s Hot For Teacher intro very well on Vengeance Is Clear, whilst both guitarists (Mike Spreitzer and Neal Tiemann) put in mega shifts to keep things moving along. But too often the result, if not outright disappointment, is a sort of ‘meh’ that leaves a feeling of what might have been when tracks like Nest Of Vipers make all the right moves but end up falling short of expectation.

But let’s end positively! There is a run of three songs here, Wishing, You Give Me A Reason to Drink and Witches that are all easily among the best that any formation of Devildriver has committed to tape; Wishing sees Dez adopt a a different, more melodic vocal approach in the verses, a technique which works well not least because it gives the screamed chorus far more impact when it arrives. A simple trick yes, but it elevates the song and makes it the real highlight of the album. You Give Me A Reason To Drink is more what you’d expect, but maybe because it appears between the two best tracks on the album it appears to be all the better. It does possess a very catchy chorus and a contribution from Fafara’s son Simon as well! The final track of this winning triumvirate, Witches, is the track that best represents the ‘traditional’ Devildriver approach, and shows how much can be done within the band’s normal templates. A catchy chorus, great drumming, riffs for days… a triumph!

Hopefully more of this will appear on the second part of the release, and we will indeed get one great Devildriver album out of this… cross your fingers and toes, guys!

Dealing With Demons I releases on October 2nd.