Since they formed in 2002, DevilDriver have enjoyed a slow, steady career build. Their self-titled 2003 debut was a crushing introduction to a new breed of extremity, spearheaded by the distinctive vocal ferocity of front man, Dez Fafara. The band's 2005 follow-up, Fury of Our Maker's Hand was more musically accomplished and experimental. But with their new album, The Last Kind Words, DevilDriver has taken a quantum leap up the evolutionary metal scale, crafting an album that's simultaneously brutal, melodic, technically complex yet instantly accessible.
"We wanted to do something that was different than what we did on the first two records, and would stand out" Fafara says. "We wanted to keep our sound alive, but at the same time, move on. So, we knew that everyone needed to step up to the plate and push themselves to their fullest extent."
The members of DevilDriver did exactly that, and then some. The Last Kind Words is the kind of album that grips you by the throat, and doesn't let go for nearly an hour. It's punishing and uncompromising, distilling the creative vision of the band members into songs that pummel like victims of violent crime seeking revenge on their assailants. At the same time, each song is chock full of hooks that keep listeners pinned in place for the next round of bludgeoning.
From the first listen to songs like "Not All Who Wander Are Lost," which features jackhammer beats, chugging thrash riffs and biting death grind, or the epic architecture of "These Fighting Words," a precise and militaristic melee between marching volleys of hate and triumphant Wagnerian melodies, it's clear that DevilDriver have realized their full potential. "Bound by the Moon" is graced with ravaging double-bass drums and sinister guitar harmonies, "Call to the Throne" compliments down- tuned clamor with multi-part pinch-harmonics and penetrating, machine gun riffs. And the title track embellishes trenchant beats and start-stop rhythms with harrowing, spare piano.
"When I listen to something like Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power record, it still sounds great because it stands up over time," Fafara says. "I want this record to do that as well. Fifteen years from now I want people go, 'Listen to that shit. It's heavy, but it's still catchy and it totally captures the essence and groove of DevilDriver.' It's of the utmost importance that we clarify our sound for the masses on this one."
Fafara came up with the title of the album after writing the lyrics, "The last kind words will be/ You will live below angels and above beasts." The couplet addresses the predicament of being human, a theme that is at the much blackened heart of the record. "Out of all the things we could have been put on this earth as, being human is not good," Fafara explains. "It's like, okay, now you're stuck here with all these emotions and feelings and you gotta keep yourself afloat. The suicide rate has more than doubled in the U.S. in the recent past, so this album is about being motivated to stand up to the punishment of being a human and to have the character in you to go on when all people want to do is hold you down."
DevilDriver started working on the new songs in 2005, soon after the release of Fury of Our Maker's Hand. The band members wrote riffs on the bus, backstage in clubs and in hotels, and Fafara scribbled down lyrics whenever and wherever felt inspired. By the time DevilDriver entered their practice space last year to assemble the songs, they already had a firm grip on the material.
"It was important that we not throw this all together at a moment's notice," Fafara says. "We spent our time on these songs and were way more prepared to go into the studio than we've ever been before. There were songs where I had two sets of lyrics written lyrically and everyone had backup riffs, too, in case something needed to be changed. Fortunately, nothing did."
In mid-November 2006, DevilDriver entered the studio with producer Jason Suecof (Trivium, Chimaira) and recorded the entire album in less than a month. They were originally planning to spend more time on it, but Suecof decided they were so prepared they didn't need to do pre-production, and he worked so quickly that, before they knew it, they were finished. "We just demoed the shit out of the songs until the were near perfect. We walked into Sonic Ranch and started recording with a clear vision," says guitarist Jeff Kendrick.
"The vibe in there was so amazing," recalls Fafara. "I've never seen someone track so fast in my life. And, he wasn't rushing; he was just capturing the moment and moving on. A lot of what you hear on the record is first takes, which is cool because when you do take after take, it can suck the life right out of a song. Jason really captured this band."
The lyrics on The Last Kind Words demonstrate just as much development as the music. Instead of screaming with blind rage, Fafara expresses his knowledge and experiences, and reveals there's much more to his character than dark mysticism and misanthropy. "Not All Who Wander Are Lost," for instance, looks at life through the eyes of someone determined to live in the moment. "A lot of people get overwhelmed with life and what they're going to do 20 years from now, and often they're the ones who are going to die early from heart attack and stress," Fafara says. "I'm one of the person who look at things on a daily basis and doesn't get swept up in what's yet to come."
By contrast, "Clouds Over California" tells a more personal story about the demise of friendship and the need to sweep up the dust and move on. "Today I swore that I wouldn't mourn ya/ Curse the clouds over California," screams Fafara over a backdrop of tumbling beats and buzzsaw guitars. "It's about being friends with someone for a long, long time and then finally just going, You know what? This isn't working. I'm done with this. Don't call me anymore."
With The Last Kind Words, DevilDriver have not just raised the bar, they have perfected their high-jump. Instead of just striving for the top they have outreached even their own expectations and delivered an album that puts them in an entirely different sonic realm. Without sacrificing heaviness, DevilDriver have become more melodic, without sacrificing accessibility - adding poignant complexity to their ever-evolving sound. After many years of extensive touring, DevilDriver have shaped their career on inspiration and remain diligent artists, with no airs or pretension. Drummer John Boecklin comments, "This is our most extreme, interesting and complete album so far. We focused on adding a bit more complexity to the structure of the tunes. I think fans will find a more mature DevilDriver with this album."
The Last Kind Words are an affirming testament to DevilDrivers' on-going metamorphosis - combining the diverse influences shared by the entire band with a steady focus on song-craft. Transcending expectations, The Last Kind Words offers a fresh sound from a band that has firmly planted their place in the extreme music landscape. After years of touring and releasing records, DevilDriver have honed in the essence of their songwriting potential, with what has been described by the band as "...by far the best DevilDriver record we have made."
Among the youngest bands ever to storm the metal genre, Death Angel has come to be known as one of the most influential bands to emerge from the thriving Bay Area Thrash Metal Scene in the early 1980s, an era when one could catch Cliff Burton (Metallica) at the front of the stage at Ruthie's Inn banging his head to Death Angel's inventive style, and speedy, complex arrangements
In 1986, a Death Angel demo produced by Kirk Hammett (Metallica) titled "Kill As One" sparked the interest of Enigma Records. Then, in 1987, Death Angel's debut, "The Ultra Violence," was released. Drummer Andy Galeon was just 14 years old at the time. The album was a full-frontal assault on the ears, buzzing with the group's youthful energy, and "The Ultra Violence" sold 40,000 copies in just four months. Another innovative recording, "Frolic Through the Park," followed, marking Death Angel's evolution both lyrically and musically. "Bored," another track from the band's second release, highlighted the cutting-edge band's inventive dynamics, and won a spot on MTV's "Headbanger's Ball."
Geffen Records was impressed enough with Death Angel's television premier to offer the band a deal, and Death Angel became the first band of their breed to appear on the major label's roster. At Geffen, the band released what is widely regarded as one of the most original and accomplished thrash metal albums ever recorded, "Act III." The record pushed the limits of the genre to create something truly unique, a definitive work that is essential to any metal fan's music collection. Death Angel's masterful songwriting ability was once again on display nationwide in 1990, as the videos for "Seemingly Endless Time' and 'Room With A View' saw heavy rotation on MTV.
Winds Of Plague
The Southern California purveyors of pain, WINDS OF PLAGUE, are going to quickly change the landscape of heavy music upon the release of their much anticipated third full-length release, Against the World, which is a perfect metallic assault of angst ridden fury. The group went back to their roots channeling the basic, urban hardcore elements, which made their debut offering, Decimate The Weak, such a stand-out underground cult classic. The partnership with Grammy Award winning, platinum producer Matt Hyde (No Doubt, Slayer, Hatebreed) proved to be exact component needed to push each member's performance beyond their comfort zones to ultimately reach an unexpected plateau that is sure to create a buzz within the scene. Against the World is simply a bare bones assault of uninhibited aggressiveness that will serve as a much needed wake up call to the masses and beat any listener into oblivion.
After annihilating the masses on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest throughout the summer of 2010, WINDS OF PLAGUE now prepares to further spread their carnage across North America on The Warped Tour in the summer of 2011. This is a huge opportunity for the band to perform in front of a different crowd while definitely bringing something unique to this festival to separate themselves from the pack. Expect big circle pits and one of the most energetic performances of the day.
Johnny Plague (vocals) further states: "We set out with producer Matt Hyde to raise the bar for WINDS OF PLAGUE both as a band and as musicians. We put a lot of our writing focus into the energy and the structure of the songs and everything else just seemed to fall into place naturally. We really just wanted to create a fun but heavy album. We still topped every song off with over the top epic orchestral arrangements, but we brought back the more hardcore, live show elements from Decimate The Weak. Unlike the previous release this record is not a concept album, which gave me freedom as a writer.
Both fans of Decimate The Weak and The Great Stone War will be pleased for we haven't altered the formula or strayed from our roots, but injected them with rage and fury. This record is beautiful, ignorant and heavy.
"The Warped Tour has been an event I have been attending since I started going to shows and needless to say, I have always wanted to participate in it, so we are very excited to say the least. Warped has always been known for the eclectic lineups and I am anxious to get in front of a new crowd and continue to build the WOP army. It's going to be a wild summer, so we hope you can all come and hang with us."
WINDS OF PLAGUE further solidified their status as one of the hottest up-and-coming metal acts upon release of their highly acclaimed, sophomore album, The Great Stone War, which made an impressive debut in its first week landing at #73 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. The offering quickly propelled the band to the forefront of the American metal scene.
Over the course of three full-lengths The Agonist have proved they're no "Flavor of the Week." Through great songs, hard work, and an ardent fanbase, the Montreal-based five-piece quickly established themselves as torchbearers of a new generation of Canadian metal, much of it on the shoulders of founding members Danny Marino, Chris Kells, and Alissa White-Gluz. Throughout the last decade, The Agonist spread their respective wings wide, touring with an array of notable artists, including Danzig, Kamelot, Corrosion of Conformity, Enslaved, Kittie, and Epica.
Times and circumstances change, however. After parting ways with White-Gluz in 2014—she's now center stage in labelmates Arch Enemy—, The Agonist set out to find a new vocalist. For a split second, the group considered a frontman to replace White-Gluz, but quickly realized the dynamic wouldn't work. Searching high and low, they found American vocalist Vicky Psarakis on Youtube. Psarakis wasn't just covering songs by Iron Maiden, Nevermore, Adele, and Nightwish in the comfort of her home studio. She was magically altering them. Her online performance was enough for The Agonist to request an audition, for which she nailed and the rest is history. "The change has actually been quite smooth overall," guitarist Marino acknowledges. "Part in thanks to Vicky's ability to rise to the occasion and our fans open mindedness. I think the fact that the Agonist has often gone outside the box musically has attracted fans that welcome change and new things pretty easily."
The Agonist, now with Psarakis fronting, are preparing to unfurl Eye of Providence. Powerful, diverse, aggressive, and epic are all buzzwords used to describe the group's fourth full-length. Album opener "Gates of Horn and Ivory" immediately shows The Agonist's intentions. There is no escape from Marino and Pascal Jobin's aggro-melodic riffing, Kells' storm-like bass, and Simon McKay's thunderous drums. And no doubt will Psarakis' screams, growls, and full-bodied clean vocals floor longtime fans and hook new acolytes. This is The Agonist reborn! This fact couldn't be truer in lead single, "Disconnect Me". The frontwoman immediately demonstrates she's ready to be in the ruling class of metal singers, while the rest of her bandmates cleverly pound out a killer song as if it's nothing. Turns out, Eye of Providence was effortlessly awesome to make.
Says Marino: "It was a whole new experience and the most enjoyable we've ever had. There was an air of full collaboration like never before. It was a good balance of group effort and individual composition and understanding that balance. While Vicky and I were the main composers, every member composed
part of this album and this was the first album, where lyrical content was also shared between Vicky, Simon, and myself."
The Eye of Providence, or God's all-seeing eye, is a piece of religious iconography with origins stemming back to ancient Egypt. But The Agonist aren't going all History Channel on their new album. The lyrical center isn't about pyramids, the Freemasons, or its appearance on the United States one-dollar bill. As on previous albums, The Agonist are commenting heavily on advances in monitoring technology, particularly as it relates to governments intruding on the private lives of its citizens. "We are embracing a number of new topics," admits Marino with a cryptic smile. "The Agonist still wants to be a voice for change. However, there are many socio-political and personal topics that we haven't yet covered. We get into some of those on this record."
Recorded at The Grid Studio (Beneath the Massacre, Beyond Creation) with longtime producer Christian Donaldson, Eye of Providence sounds incomparable to albums previous. Donaldson captured The Agonist fresh, alive, and, most importantly, heavy. They fed viciously off a spontaneous and collaborative work environment and ended up with a record that's completely "in the moment". So much so, an injury to Jobin's hand forced him to approach a solo with a little innovation. "While tracking "Disconnect Me" Paco punched a wall," Marino laughs. "He ended up breaking a bone in his finger, but he still had to write and track his guitar solo. Since picking was very difficult he ended up writing the whole solo using tapping. The solo ended up really cool and like nothing he's really done before. So, in the end, it was a good thing he punched that wall!"
If The Agonist were to weather a storm it wouldn't be the departure of White-Gluz and the arrival of Psarakis. The great struggle is making a record that sounds like The Agonist. A fingerprint solely made from five individuals with like motivations and goals. Eye of Providence is that record. It is The Agonist's crowning achievement to date. "I feel like we have come into our own sound, especially on Eye of Providence," says Marino proudly. "I am influenced by artists like Devin Townsend and Mikael Åkerfeldt. I am inspired by artists with the courage to take a listener to many different places in one album. That's what we have been trying to do since our second album [Lullabies for the Dormant Mind]. With the Eye of Providence we were able to find that balance."
As with many bands so to with The Agonist. They live and breathe on stage. In fact, if a song doesn't pass the "live test" it doesn't make it on the album. The music is only right when it can be translated from the stage to The Agonist's rabid fanbase. So, expect to see The Agonist in 2014 and 2015 all over the world. And be fully ready to hear the total brilliance of Eye of Providence.
Vicky Psarakis – Vocals
Danny Marino – Guitar
Chris Kells – Bass
Simon McKay- Drums
Pascal "Paco" Jobin – Guitar