To say that Dez Fafara has come a long ways since debuting with his first band (ill-fated nu-metal act Coal Chamber) would be a vast understatement. It’s hard to believe that just ten years ago, Dez Fafara was shamelessly spouting ridiculous dribble (like repeating “me so loco” again and again) over moronically simplistic, Korn-copped riffs. But now, a short decade later, Dez is all growed up, and is in a second band, Devildriver, who have released an unbelievably brutal album which officially shuts the doors on his amateurish nu-metal roots forever. That album is this year’s “The Last Kind Words.” This is, without question, Devildriver’s strongest, meanest and most realized and energetic release yet, and it is also the best piece of music Mr. Fafara has ever attached his name to.
Neither Dez nor his band have ever sounded hungrier than they do now. “TLKW” has a wonderful, raw urgency to it, as if the band recorded the whole thing at gunpoint. But that doesn’t mean Devildriver didn’t still have a lot of fun making this record. They clearly delight in tearing the listener’s head off with an uncompromising avalanche of great, fiery riffs, busy, nimble-fingered leads, deft, pummeling blast beats, and visceral, raging vocals.
Everybody is at the top of his game here. The musicianship is impeccable and almost impossibly tight. Axemen Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick are particularly awesome – not only are their riffs and leads highly technical, but they have learned how to solo, too! Quite a few lengthy, tastefully clean solos are sprinkled on throughout these eleven cuts, thus giving some melody and harmony to the otherwise chaotic musical arrangements. Jason Suecof is also worthy of special mention for turning in an excellent production job (probably the best and clearest of his career thus far.) As a result, the listener can hear and absorb every second of the onslaught — including guitar feedback and crashing high hats — very well.
From front to back, the album never loses any steam — the intensity level stays in the red for the duration. Plus, these eleven tracks never lose their focus, either, so the album is very consistent. And as a triple threat, it’s super catchy, too! Devildriver never forsake catchiness; no matter how heavy or intense a song gets, they always remember to slip in a bunch of memorable hooks and infectious grooves. A case in point is the driving, breakneck set opener, “Not All Who Wonder All Lost,” which boasts a deep, Pantera or Lamb of God-worthy groove tattooed with rapid-fire drums. Two very tasty, ripping, and melodic solos also crop up here. Elsewhere, “Bound By The Moon” and “When Summoned” (to name just a couple) are other prime cuts of riff-choked, face-ripping thrash; and Dez’s livid, maniacal lyrics and vicious, venomous bellows on “Horn Of Betrayal” will make you think the flesh is being torn off your bones.
But it isn’t all the same song, because there’s plenty of dynamic to be heard, as well. For example, take “Clouds Over California” and “These Fighting Words”: both break up the monotony and give the listener a little room to breathe with slow, mounting energy build-ups. But give it only about half a minute and both of the songs are waist deep in full-on, foaming-at-the-mouth thrash — the former with pounding, jackhammering blasts, and the latter with excellent, blistering riffage. “Tirades Of Truth” is the only entirely mid-tempo song, and even it has a great, palpable tension and bristles with crunchy guitars and catchy, moshable choruses.
Devildriver aren’t set out to reinvent the wheel or disprove anybody who says they’re one-dimensional, but those things are almost effortlessly easy to overlook when the album is, overall, this satisfying, contagious, exhilarating, and addictive. “The Last Kind Words” delivers the goods, plain and simple. Who knew that having your butt kicked could be such a blast?!