Killer Be Killed’s 2014 self-titled debut album was one of those extremely rare instances where a supergroup did manage to live up to the sum of its parts. Incorporating all of the things that made the individual work of Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy man Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders of Mastodon and Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan fame so successful, it delivered a brilliant, genuinely cohesive genre mash-up between some of metal’s most revered artists. Unsurprisingly, considering the various day jobs that needed to be juggled, they disappeared all too quickly, and everyone expected that to be the end of the story.
But, to the surprise and delight of many, they’re back, this time with the added bonus of Converge’s octopus-limbed drummer, Ben Koller, added as a full-time member. With the unbelievable consistency of all four men’s output, it will come as no surprise that Reluctant Hero is another absolute gem of an album. Once again, the main strength of Killer Be Killed is the equal opportunity policy of letting each of the frontmen impress their own strength and personality on every song.
Opener Deconstructing Self-Destruction comes in with a Sepultura-esque riff that sees the hazy melodic croon of Sanders give way to the iconic, staccato bark of Cavalera and then Puciato’s spittle-drenched sneer, while the headbanging groove remains satisfyingly rigid throughout. And while tag-teaming the instantly recognisable timbre of each vocalist helps to keep the dynamics of each Killer Be Killed song mobile, they are musically adept as well; Left Of Center rides along on the kind of continually kinetic rhythmical patchwork of Mastodon, yet Filthy Vagabond will delight classic punk rock and hardcore aficionados. It’s a style that Cavalera has leaned heavily on in the past, but it’s great to hear Sanders’ lackadaisical drawl used in this particular framework.
The album’s highlight, though, is the sprawling, slow build of seven-minute-long album centerpiece, From A Crowded Wound. It starts with a riff so heavy and oppressive that it’ll make you feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a mountain. It’s then carried along by a seething yet restrained Puciato until both Sanders and Cavalera join forces and trade vocal lines in an astonishingly crushing mid-section, before the song simmers to a close. It’s an astonishing moment, reminiscent of the debut album’s closing track, Forbidden Fire, taken to even greater heights.
If there is a slight gripe with Reluctant Hero, it would be that it never quite reaches those particular standards again, although the one minute and seven seconds of thrashing on Animus, the early death metal-meets-space rock of Dead Limbs and the closing title track – as close as the band have to a ballad – are all still very strong moments in an album that never loses its focus or charm.
So, a welcome return from what is almost certainly the finest supergroup of the past decade. Fingers crossed that they stick around a little longer this time, and that maybe we here in the UK get those long-awaited live dates. Unquestionably, these songs deserve to be heard.
Killer Be Killed’s Reluctant Hero is available to pre-order (opens in new tab)