Santa Barbara, Calif.-based DevilDriver used to be reliable purveyors of groove metal, the heavy metal subset that stitches hard rock riffs to funk or dance beats. But their latest disc, "Beast," a thunder-bringing, knuckle-dragging, 10-car pileup of an album, pummels more than it grooves.
DevilDriver is fronted by Dez Fafara, whose days leading the late, unlamented nu-metal band Coal Chamber have caused metal purists to suspect that DevilDriver is insufficiently aggro at heart, a notion "Beast" blasts to smithereens in its first five minutes.
Every track on "Beast" (which is being sold as either a standalone disc or a CD/DVD bundle featuring music videos and documentary footage) is a roundhouse punch, though not every punch connects. For every track like the defiantly terrible thrasher "The Blame Game," there's a sweatily great organ-liquefier like "Blur" ("I don't know you but I . . . hate you"); good and terrible tracks sometimes are separated by only the slightest of margins.
"Beast" is death metal done well, if not always spectacularly. The only evidence that DevilDriver is trying to break out of the middle of the pack: a cover version of '90s Americana outfit 16 Horsepower's "Black Soul Choir," which replaces the original's spectral acoustic howl with a nuclear blast of riffage. The song's themes of biblical retribution and souls lost to darkness ("Every man is evil, yes/Every man's a liar") dovetail so perfectly with the interests of the average metal band, it's a wonder none of them thought to cover it before.
- Allison Stewart
Recommended tracks: "Black Soul Choir," "Dead to Rights"