Over the past two decades, Devildriver have cemented their status as contemporary metal heavyweights. Their musical arsenal is seemingly impervious to shifting trends and shot through with the kind of resilience many would deem alien given the turbulence this Californian groove machine have encountered. With the cynics forever lurking in the wings, the release of 2016’s Trust No One would also mark their first album since the departures of drummer John Boecklin and guitarist-cum-songwriter Jeff Kendrick, not to mention frontman Dez Fafara’s sojourn with Coal Chamber.
Fast forward four years and the liner notes for this first part of a double album reveal a continued slew of personal trials and tribulations – from Dez’s wife’s cancer battle to the ongoing pandemic – but, as Dealing With Demons I confirms, he’s always had the music to back up his determination. Opener Keep Away From Me is fit to burst with the type of skyscraping, twin-guitar assaults that have typified Devildriver at their exhilarating best, with Dez’s belligerent delivery as confrontational as ever. The seething mass of mutated death metal grooves that lacerate the furious Nest Of Vipers unapologetically raids the senses.
As opening statements go it’s impossible to find fault, but if you’re still not convinced then pit-friendly anthem Witches and The Damned Don’t Cry’s skilful yet insanely catchy fusion of riffs and punchy rhythms perfectly lay the base for Dez’s caustic screams, before the title track’s bruising percussive might sets everything up for a rousing chorus.
Even when the band change gears on Iona’s slower, hulking descent and dabble with eerie cleans elsewhere, Dealing With Demons I represents a vital and violent clearing of the emotional decks for Devildriver, who, even after 20 years, radiate the kind of energy many younger bands can only sniff at.