Bands such as DevilDriver were never the old school in my own world. Throwing myself ten years back, I remember a group of over-uniformed boarding school boys all lifting heavy school bags and blazers, fixing their earphones in for one hot, quick, summer walk before the gate-bell announced our institutionalized doom, and throwing jabs at each other’s bad music taste all the way to the classrooms. Blaring in my ears as I trumped stupidly across suburban pavements was DevilDriver’s Fury of the Maker’s Hand, and the heat of school consequence or adolescent disfranchisement seemed meaningless behind the rasp of Dez Fafara (a name I will never be able to pronounced with my Anglo-African tongue) and the intense attitude of what metal, back then at least, meant to a blank thirteen year-old living in the ever-dead regions of church and ‘great’ expectations. There were no lyric videos, Youtube comment wars, merch stores, ‘van-break-in’ sob stories, or genre-based elitism; just the trust in one’s imagination in what the music and people behind it meant to you at that point in time. Fast-forward, the plethora of bulshit and business orientated hype surrounding alternative music and art in recent years has made me weary and skeptical, which saddens one when revisiting the early days of passion fueling. I, like the band and their sentiment in this outing, trust no one; at least when it comes to a consensus as to what is in vogue.
Starting in true DD fashion, the opening track doesn’t fuck around. Straight for the jugular and draining your patience. For a new listener, this is can be a deterrent, and though many have applauded the consistency of punishing a listener from the word go, I was let down by my curiosity in revisiting them. I felt a strange sense of confusion in cryptic loss yet annoyed blatancy. Having glanced over the lyrics before listening, I was slightly put-out to find the execution of lines like “East of the ancient sun, beyond the valley of the corpses…” falling behind tough guy lamentations like “I spit on your corpse, nothing left to do, but put my boot on you…”. The thing that makes this a grudge, when trying to appreciate both word and sound, is that it requires me to separate the lyrics from the music to find a song’s purpose. So I shut my laptop, lit a cigarette, and walked to the other side of my city; Trust No One blaring in my ears in 200% humidity and un-god-ly Asian heat. Annoyance gone…
Now, is that a weakness for DevilDriver that running through the lyrics dampens their artistic position? No. Instead I am in an interesting position of no confidence, a motion to slap me off the Starbucks pedestal of good-taste authority. Empty your mind and focus on the music that doesn’t waste a single second of its runtime.
Trust No One is what I have missed about loving metal. It has leads that hook, such as “For What It’s Worth” building and exploding from prologue to grind, all the while swinging hard in production that is incredibly balanced. Guitar wise, songs force you to pout like a prom-date behind an iPhone, bearing that kvlt face you hid from your dickhead friends who have better taste than you. Flowing from low to solo in synergy with the bass and drum mix, an auditory experience which is truly pleasing to the ears. To find tight and well-produced music welcoming to a modern listener, instead of us eye-roling at the quantizing and forced ‘progression’, is unheard of in the realms of unreachable standards that is music fandom today. Even in the vocal department, Ferfara’s cursing throughout the album is smooth and pissed-off, and shows a classic definition of ‘return-to-form’ in this outing. Not to say that he was never focused on previous releases, but there seems to be a renewed texture to his infamous, angle-grinder output. The guy is not an image or statesman to represent the disillusioned youth; he’s a man who has something to express and has enough of vocal personality and angst to make you believe that what he spurts is important, even if it is – at first glance – polarizing hate gabble.
With DevilDriver, there is no instrumental ego, tone fetishism, drum titan-mix syndrome, or a vocal palette that wanks through superficial techniques. It is attitude, melody, speed, and aggression. And for DevilDriver to pull this off so far into a career, so long into an ever changing industry, so hard into the line-up changes and Fefara’s moments of mascara weakness, I cannot help but truly love the template they have stuck to, improved by slicker drumming and production tastes. The band is bowing to no trend or contemporary appropriation; they are still the DevilDriver who walked with me to school.
When a medium of art is thrown into definitive markers of success being that of sales or ‘hype’ or trendy transcendence, the world surrounding it becomes a dead empty space, and assuming a higher plain of understanding or awareness in an industry dirtied by sympathy predators and base marketing distracts absolute. DevilDriver have not rewritten, pushed, or revolutionized, but they have knuckled down and kept their energy, and no matter what style of music gives you the bumps, this energy is damn important to music lovers. I am not asking you to get on this album to fit the retro routine or unnecessarily preserve; this is a call to kill the noise and dress your commute in life the color this album paints the caverns of your distrusting ears. Trust No One is definitely not a tasteful experience, but at least it’s not self-proclaimed ascendancy, dressed in trendy mental masturbation.