DevilDriver - Pray For Villains review

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Band: DevilDriver
Album: Pray For Villains
Release date: July 2009

01. Pray For Villains
02. Pure Sincerity
03. Fate Stepped In
04. Back With A Vengeance
05. I've Been Sober
06. Resurrection Blvd.
07. Forgiveness Is A Six Gun
08. Waiting For November
09. It's In The Cards
10. Another Night In London
11. Bitter Pill
12. Teach Me To Whisper
13. I See Belief
14. Self-Affliction [special edition bonus]
15. Dust Be The Destiny [special edition bonus]
16. Damning The Heavens [special edition bonus]
17. Wasted Years [Iron Maiden cover] [special edition bonus]

[special edition bonus DVD]
01. Making-Of Documentary
02. Interviews

For a band who are typecast as one-dimensional, it is a shame that their most expansive album is often overlooked by naysayers, Pray For Villains is an album that sees DevilDriver push the envelope on something other than extremity, a strong album that unfortunately didn't live up to its inherent potential.

If you have heard of DevilDriver in passing before, you are most likely to associate them with songs like "Clouds Over California" or "End Of The Line"; while they're indeed some of the band's strongest work, they're quite limited in their sonic scope. Perhaps recognizing this, the band fill their fourth album Pray For Villains with tweaks and twists that go a long way in changing attitudes toward the band. The band are still an out-and-out groove metal band, make no mistake there, but rather than focus on aggression, the band amplify other elements that had taken a back seat before, namely melody and instrumental shake-ups that add dimension to the tracks.

What did this album few favours however is that for whatever reason it was the songs that sounded most similar to their prior work that were chosen to promote the album; while tracks like the title track and "Fate Stepped In" are by means bad tracks (and in most cases are solid choices to highlight), in this instance it undermines the band's attempt at experimentation, as those who were on the fence wouldn't hear it and assume it was more of the same. If you are one of those people, then try "Waiting For November" or "Bitter Pill" if you want better examples of how the band were mixing it up.

Where Pray For Villains truly excels is when the band emphasize the groove element in groove metal, with a track like "Back With A Vengeance" being heavy as hell but off the back of a riff that is rooted in making you move rather than headbang alone, and "Teach Me To Whisper" being drenched in an almost poppy melody-driven groove. It is far from a wholesale departure from their previous work; it is just that experimentation in the measures of elements that go into a track that separates these tracks from other DevilDriver albums.

It is down to the band's ability to focus on different elements separately but then to turn them into a cohesive whole that really allows much of the music here to excel. Kendrick and Spreitzer are in constant flux, creating passages and riffs that showcase the different elements on Pray For Villains, and are often the members who are pushing the envelope. Where on tracks like the title track they focus on power, on other songs such as "Resurrection Blvd" and "Waiting For November" they use scales and patterns you would not immediately associate with DevilDriver.

Boecklin is the hidden weapon, however; his work on the drums allows the band to push boundaries whilst keeping them rooted in their sound of old, utilizing patterns that highlight the groove nature of a track, but using his fills to add power and the metal element to remind you that even with all the experimentation, DevilDriver are still a metal band at heart. Take "Waiting For November"; whereas he could have easily sat back and kept it simple, Boecklin instead gives each section of the track that extra something that injects power into the song. Be it the use of triplets, drum rolls or double bass bursts, he adds dimensions to the songs while balancing the metal and experimentation elements of the tracks.

Pray For Villains isn't a wholesale success, however; there are portions of this album that hinder the overall quality and impact of the album. Chief among them is Fafara's vocals; given that he has such a distinctive singing style, it is harder for him to alter his voice without venturing beyond his talents, but on an album that pushes the envelope, he is oddly stoic and rarely more a few tentative steps away from his comfort zone. While he is able to emphasize and elevate the more metallic tracks and the metallic sections of certain songs, they're less of a central focus, leaving Fafara to be singing against the grain for much of the album.

There is also a track that can't bring together the different elements from each member and turn it into a cohesive whole, leaving you with a scattered wonky mess that sounds like the audio equivalent of throwing jigsaw puzzle pieces at each other in the hope they match and fit together. I feel that is probably the best description I can give "It's In The Cards"; I can see what the band were aiming for but the execution is something to be desired. To a lesser extent, "I See Belief" suffers from the same problem, but it manages to be a passable outing rather than something I actively avoid, primarily due to the guitar and bass work on the track.

Pray For Villains easily ranks amongst DevilDriver's best work for me, showing the band could shake things up but not lose sight of themselves in the process. It is ironic then that the band would go on to do just that following this album and for much of the following decade. It may have been a rocky road since the release of this record, but at least looking back you can see it shining bright as a beacon of what DevilDriver are capable of.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written by omne metallum | 12.07.2020



Comments: 2   Visited by: 9 users
13.07.2020 - 16:57
This is my favorite DD album and one of my favorite groove metal albums. 8.3 is a great review score, but not sure how you get there with a 8,7,7,8 wouldn't that be a 7.5? IMO I'd rate it 9,8,8,9 for a 8.5 overall.
13.07.2020 - 20:10
Written by IH8Hipsters on 13.07.2020 at 16:57

This is my favorite DD album and one of my favorite groove metal albums. 8.3 is a great review score, but not sure how you get there with a 8,7,7,8 wouldn't that be a 7.5? IMO I'd rate it 9,8,8,9 for a 8.5 overall.

The final rating is the general impression the album gives the reviewer, not the mean of the performance,
songwriting, originality, and production ratings

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