Devildriver take a bold step with a country covers album. 5/10
I’ll say it right up front – I’m not a massive fan of Devildriver, but I’m going to try to be fair in this review as I’m one of those people old enough to remember Coal Chamber and it’s impressive that Dez Fafara has had a 21 year career when a lot of his peers from that time have come and gone. Fafara was clever enough to see that Coal Chamber had outstayed their welcome, formed Devildriver and since then has stayed on track with each album getting a bit heavier. With bands that are around for a long time they either find their niche and churn out albums (Slayer) or they start to bring their own musical influences into their music (mid-90’s Metallica). Devildriver were in that first group of bands but with Outlaws Til The End they’ve swerved into the second.
Releasing a covers album is a brave move as it’s like a live album – fans can take or leave it which means an artist has an extended break between new material that is their own. That lengthy break for the fans who aren’t die hard ones can lose interest in you and drift onto other things. Releasing an album of country covers is an incredibly brave move, or a very ill advised one.
It’s safe to say that there seems to be a little division between Devildriver fans since drummer John Boecklin and guitarist Jeff Kendrick left the band, with some fans feeling that their last album Trust No One didn’t quite hit the mark. Following that it may have been a wiser choice to play a little safer than Outlaws ‘Til The End, something Dez is clearly aware of as the album is stacked with guest appearances from metal and country stars to pique the audience’s curiosity. It’s a Devildriver album to be sure and they’ve done a good job at adapting the songs to their style rather than trying to be more country as there’s no compromise here.
First song and already released single Outlaws to the End starts the album off well and Whisky River actually takes things up a notch. Off to a good start here, Outlaw Man keeps things going although it’d have been nice to have a chorus with a different vocal style; perhaps a missed opportunity for a guest star there. Then we reach Ghost Riders in the Sky which sounds like one of those YouTube channels when they decide to do ‘x song in the style of death metal’. For Devildriver fans I’m sure it’ll be a great song live once the beers are flowing but it’s a bad novelty song.
Thankfully the album moves swiftly on until two songs later we hit When the Man Comes Around. Like I said, I’m going to try and be fair. I’m a huge fan of the Johnny Cash version and this has brief fleeting moments that are very good and parts that simply don’t work. For those not familiar with the original I’m sure this will be a lot more enjoyable. Remember I said that Outlaw Man needed a change of vocals in the chorus? A Thousand Miles From Nowhere has one and maybe shouldn’t as it sounds like we’re back into YouTube covers territory; musically the song is solid but we’re heading downhill now and Copperhead Road keeps going downwards. Dad’s Gonna Kill Me sounds great though a little odd to hear a 52 year old man singing about how his dad’s going to kill him. A Country Boy Can Survive is okay but we limp to an end with The Ride which is fairly bad.
Devildriver’s fans will be very divided over this album too and it definitely works better if you’re not familiar with the original songs. Some of it is very good, some is very very bad, sometimes even in the same song so definitely check out the singles below before investing. Although I normally wouldn’t suggest it, there are unofficial uploads on YouTube of songs from the rest of the album which are possibly better than the singles and maybe a better representation of the album as a whole – Whisky River, Outlaw Man and Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.
3 rattlesnakes out of 5. (Revised rating 5/10)