DevilDriver – Winter Kills Track by Track Album Review.


Track 1 – Oath of the Abyss
DevilDriver immediately proves this album is going to be the one that holds every anthem of hate, anger, power and getting that fight back in you with just the first track alone. Oath of the Abyss holds so much strength inside of it, musically and at an emotional level and no, not in the ‘my boyfriend/girlfriend left me’ typical emotion grabber in songs, this grabs you by your throat and tells you to man the fuck up and deal with the people who have shit all over you in your life. Not only lyrically does that come across but you can also feel that raw hatred in Dez Fafaras vocals that helped shape and create the DevilDriver us fans love! Musically however as the opener to the Winter Kills album, it proves the brilliant musicians that DevilDriver have (Mike Spreitzer, Jeff Kendrick, John Boecklin and Chris Towning) have indeed been able to mature yet keep that power and that spirit that makes you throw your head back and forth with your fists in the air knowing you’re in one fucking family and DevilDriver are here to settle down amongst us, egg us on into going for our dreams and making us know that they’re not going to let us back down!
Rating 10/10

Track 2 – Ruthless
Ruthless kicks straight in with a dirty, polluted riff that draws you in immediately, pulling feelings from genres all over the spectrum and boy does this definitely hold the groove! This is obviously the anthem of Winter Kills, it holds a military beat as I like to call it, when everything becomes synchronised from banging the banging of heads from the audience to the middle fingers going up in the air at the same time screaming ‘Fuck You I’m Ruthless!’ Not only that though, it’s simple yet edgy at the same time, you’re all of a sudden finding it 10x easier than usual to understand Dez first time round but it holds that sound, that hook that will stick in your head all day, making you nod your head and tap your feet anywhere and everywhere without your awareness… That’s how it should be done!
Rating 8/10

Track 3 – Desperate Times
We’re only 3 tracks in and Desperate Times is immediately the pit opener for the record! You know the second this track starts you want to be watching them live, you want to see the biggest pit form and you want to go nuts! Desperate Times is fast and furious track that makes you lose your shit quicker than your IBS suffering grandmother taking a handful of laxatives and let me tell you folks, that’s fucking supersonic! It definitely has a more of a thrash sound, not only from the musical elements but also the vocals are just as speedy and aggressive (as always from one of our favourite and iconic frontmen in todays metal scene) but also portraying well desperation, following the tracks name to a T!
Rating 9/10

Track 4 – Winter Kills
Winter Kills is the fourth track on the album, album-titled you’re going to be expecting the best from it however it proves to be the song that won’t be stuck in your head all day, it is still an incredibly well written track with so much going for it, more musically than vocally however until it hits the bridge and by golly does is smack you in the jaw, still not exactly strong, it has a certain feeling about it that captivates you, draws you in, having said all that – Winter Kill isn’t the strongest track at all but if that’s what the runt of the litter does sound like, you know DevilDriver are top of their game!
Rating 6/10

Track 5 – The Appetite
The Appetite… Do excuse my simple humour but this just makes me want to laugh in the faces of legends Guns N’ Roses, this should be The Appetite of Destruction because it gives you a feeling inside, that fire that wants you to get all of your hate and aggression in one big ball and throw all your shit around, throw your fists into the walls and stand back up with the determination to do what you want to do, to do what you were always being kicked down to the ground about. Dez Fafara bellows out some of the most important words you will ever hear in your life “Don’t wish your life away” listen to them words and let the power of DevilDriver help you through life, let The Appetite be your soundtrack of motivation – In no means of offence to the band Guns N’ Roses or fans, all in light hearted spirit.
Rating 9/10

Track 6 – Gutted
Gutted enters the realm of metal with a powerful, thunderous wall of sound – Just when you think DevilDriver can’t get anymore aggressive, they do! The track has so much to offer, musically it is fantastic, delivering powerful blasts of metal to incorporating beautifully crafted sounds through all instruments, the way the guitars (yes the bass too!) works alongside of the incredibly played drums on this track is truly incredible, Dez Fafara’s vocals are on top form too, delivering a short but definitely not sweet beast of a track fuelled with hatred.
Rating 9/10

Track 7 – Curses and Epitaphs
Curses and Epitaphs begins quietly yet with an eerie feel, as it kicks in it is easily noticed that this track is a definite gem. It holds consistent power, a consistent connection with the listener. It is definitely full of fury and holds the typical heavy feel that DevilDriver deliver to us but it also offers something a lot darker musically. It can enter a personal realm in you as a listener, the parts of us that hold our darkest experiences in life but then the mood always changes, it teaches us it’s okay to feel and it’s okay to look at these and use them as a weapon, a weapon into becoming the strongest person we can be. It is heavy, dark yet so beautifully powerful in terms of connecting with a listener on a personal level, that’s what has caught my attention with this track more than anything.
Rating 10/10

Track 8 – Carings Overkill
The track leads off from Curses and Epitaphs beautifully, a reason why listening to an album in full should not be shuffled at any point! Carings Overkill holds such a wonderful feel to it, this track is like a lightswitch, flick it up and you get the powerful aggressive side of DevilDriver, flick it down and out comes a side of DevilDriver that offers emotion – Both ends of the spectrum that are being delivered in this track counteract with each other incredibly especially where the guitars are concerned, it is as though they are fighting each other but nearing the end, they come together and offer one of the most beautiful DevilDriver songs I have heard in terms of grabbing an emotional leverage with the listener.
Rating 9/10

Track 9 – Haunting Refrain
Haunting Refrain has such a brilliant intro, it holds that feel to it when you know it’s building upto something ferocious and it does just that! Back on form with 100% aggression, DevilDriver really make this track something special in terms of that. It does the same as previous tracks on the album though, gives you a sense of power over what you’re feeling however in a different way. Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer perform brilliantly on this track in terms of the guitar parts, especially during the solo, it as though they talk to one another through their instruments and that is a wonderful thing too come across in terms of musicians. A furious track that is full of fight!
Rating 8/10

Track 10 – Tripping Over Tombstones
Now, what can be said here?! This track is immediately kicking in with proper DevilDriver form, a party of inner-anger, strength and the attitude you’re going to need to get you through life! Aggressive, fast and furious this track is definitely one of the strongest on the record, it has the ability to make your head bang, to get out your air instrument, run around your house pretending you’re DevilDriver and who can blame you?! Nobody. It is the fire that drives the band that flows into the listener with this track, it is the track that makes you want to be them, it is the track that makes you stop giving a fuck about the bad shit in life and makes you focus on the music, the way it should be!
Rating 10/10

Track 11 -Sail (Last track on normal edition)
Sail begins as though it’s going to the ‘DevilDriver ballad’ – The track that tears at the heartstrings in a crybaby way but it doesn’t, in fact, it is the track that grabs you in such an astonishing way. It is beautifully produced and beautifully arranged, the guitars work especially well with the underlying vocals that are giving us that eerie yet stunning feel as Dez delivers his vocal talent with such incredibility, telling a story with not only the lyrical content, he can tell a story just through his voice alone. Everything in this track is absolutely outstanding, there is no possible flaw I can find, however, the guitars on Sail are what draws the listener in most, they hold aggression and power but also they speak to you with a thousand words for every note that is played. It might not be the most technical song or has solos coming out of every corner for people to agree about the guitars being ‘superb’ but that’s not what playing any instrument is about at all, it is about connecting through music and this track does just that, a personal favourite off the record – I am aware that Sail is a cover song, originally performed for Awolnation however I wrote this as though it was it was an original due to the the fact I did not know this beforehand the review.

Shudder, Bonus Track  –
Shudder is the 1st out of the 2 bonus tracks Winter Kills offers if you went out and purchased the Deluxe Edition (I hope you sneaky bleeders bought it!) It offers definitely a different approach to the overall DevilDriver sound, it still incorporates pure brutality at it’s finest but they incorporate what is now beginning rather common in the world of metal, influences from the more electronic side of things, now things like that can be a pick or choose, sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn’t, however, it works brilliant on Shudder, probably because it’s used with the correct balance, there’s not too much there getting in your way and there’s not too little. Anyway, if you haven’t got the Deluxe Edition of Winter Kills, I suggest you go out and buy it because if you’re missing out on tracks like Shudder you’re missing out on the vitals in life!
Rating 8/10

Back Down To The Grave, Bonus Track (Last Track on Deluxe) –
The 13th and Final track of the album, 13 can be considered to be an unlucky or lucky number, after hearing this track – 13 is definitely a lucky number. DevilDriver really give it their all in both of the bonus tracks but as the outro to the Winter Kills album, this is definitely being able to have your cake and eat it! A phenomenal track that makes me proud to be a fan of DevilDriver! Need I say anymore?!
Rating 9/10

Overall –
Winter Kills is an album of consistency yet still pushes the boat out, it is absolutely stunning and well all I have to say is I can’t wait to be grabbing my tickets to a hopeful UK tour for Winter Kills!
Rating 9/10


About Jessica Howkins
Music Journalism and Broadcasting graduate, Editor-In-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine and contributor for various publications.

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