I will state at the beginning of this album review that I am a BIG Devildriver fan (ergo long review). The reason this band has earned my respect is they have improved with each release. They started out with a likable self-titled debut, then blew that out of the water with The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand, then proceeded to blow that out of the water with The Last Kind Words. So ever since I heard about Pray for Villains in early ‘09 I was painfully waiting for it to come out.
Before its release the reviews I read labeled Villains as a “typical Devildriver release,” which had me worried that they were just going to try just make The Last Kind Words II. Thankfully those people weren’t paying attention. Instead of trying to retread on their old sound they experiment and the results are great. The big difference between this and their previous albums is a heavy melodeath influence, while still retaining their groove metal roots (is melogroove a genre?). There are a lot more melodic guitar work, and even the choruses have a melody to the screaming, which beckons you to scream along with them.
This album has been getting the response that they have become commercialistic. I say that this album is accessible, the difference being that I say accessible as in this album is catchy and is easy to use to introduce someone to DD. Commercialistic, would them making throwing Nickleback ballads all over their album. The only track that one could say sounds musically radio-ready is “Back with a Vengeance.” Well, it would be radio-friendly if Dez wasn’t growling on it like he’s going to jump out of the speakers and strangle you.
Speaking of Dez’s vocals, he even experiments with that on this album. He adopts a guttural throaty “singing” voice on some tracks that sounds like Lemmy Kilmister and Rob Zombie had a love child. It sounds so different than what he’s done before, the first time I heard it I thought one of the other band members was doing additional vocals. It’s just one of the many curveballs thrown on this album.
Here is how the tracks breakdown (since I can’t help myself):
“Pray for Villains” – A “typical” DD track, but it’s still fast, brutal and will rip your face off. Perfect for moshing and headbanging!
“Pure Sincerity” – Surprising 2nd track because it starts and stays heavy (rather than throwing in another fast track) till the 3:10 mark when it goes off.
“Echoes of the Grave” – Sounds like something off of The Fury of Our Maker’s Hand, but is none the less brutal.
“I’ve Been Sober” – Awesome epic guitar opening, leading to hard versus and then a chorus that can only be described as groovy. Excellent drumming, excellent guitars, starts brutal, ends melodic, one of the best tracks they’ve put out.
“Resurrection Blvd.” – Excellent guitar sweep through the track, one of the highlights of this album.
“Forgiveness is a Six Gun” – The mid-paced heavy redheaded stepchild of this album. Some love it, some think it’s stupid. It’s not my favorite track of theirs…but I still have no problem screaming along with it when I listen to it.
“Waiting for November” – A fast catchy track, but I feel it gets a little overlooked (by me at least) because of being wedged between “Six Gun” and “Cards.”
“It’s in the Cards” – A personal favorite of mine. I love it when DD does slower tracks (like “Monsters of the Deep” on LKW) because it’s so hard to do them well, and this track is the slowest, but it still feels like the band is stomping on your chest. Love it!
“Another Night in London” – This really reminds me of something off of their debut, but if it doesn’t crawl in your brain and make you want to mosh, you have more will power than me.
“Bitter Pill,” “Teach Me to Whisper,” & “I See Belief” – brutal, brutaler, brutalest? It would be impossible for me to review these three tracks separately without being redundant because I couldn’t pick a favorite of those 3 if you held a gun to my head.
“Self-Affliction” -Why it’s a b-side I have no idea, maybe because it’s not as unique as the other tracks, or because it sounds like a track to close the album with and “I See Belief” was a better choice.
“Dust Be the Destiny” – An addictive track with a heavy metal vibe to it. Another one I question why it’s a b-side.
“Damning the Heavens” – I already had this track on LKW, but it’s a kick-ass short track.
“Wasted Years” – A cool Iron Maiden cover, although old-school heavy metal with growls will always be kinda funny to me.
The DVD that comes with this package is 35 minute “making-of” footage, which showcases that they only had weeks to come up with this album, which makes the album that much more impressive. It’s probably something you’ll only watch once, and I think it would have been better if some of their music videos and live footage was included.
Instead of trying to surpass The Last Kind Words (which probably been a disaster) Devildriver use Pray for Villains to expand and experiment with their sound, and come up with an album of 17 tracks in which all of them sound unique and none of them sound out of place, or lacking effort. It’s one of the many reasons this band is one of the best metal acts out there.