“The title of the album is all about rebirth,” says Dez Fafara, captain and power-bellowing frontman for rugged metal institution DevilDriver about his band’s new record, Winter Kills. “I love to see things grow from seed. I love to see the dying-off and the rebirth of things—that’s why I had no problems starting a second band.” In his long tenure on the frontline of heavy metal—first as frontman for respected ’90s nü-metal unit Coal Chamber—Fafara has seen and heard it all. But while he doesn’t appear to be on some kind of invented crusade to “save” metal, he’s quite forthcoming with the respect he has for both his bandmates and the artistry they bring blasting through the speakers of the tiniest earbuds to a PA system the size of a Congressional voting district. “What I’ve learned about us is that through all of the differences in the things we like, we’ve become a cohesive unit. Everybody can bring their distinct styles, but it still makes it DevilDriver.”
While not as fatalistic as its title suggests, Winter Kills does mark a number of significant changes in DevilDriver’s universe. The new album will be the band’s first for Napalm, the highly regarded independent metal label that has become a significant force in the planet’s heavy-music scenes. Recent touring bassist Chris Towning will be wielding the low end for the band, full time. The rest of DevilDriver—drummer John Boecklin and guitarists Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer—have taken a huge quantum leap from 2011’s Beast to deliver a whole new level of urgency and musicianship that’s just as vibrant and incendiary as the band’s early recordings. Producer Mark Lewis was recruited to put the band through the paces, as well as their lead singer: Fafara—a homebody who prides himself in living two hours from Los Angeles—wanted to be able to work as stress-free as possible, so he had a vocal booth built in his home for maximum ease, and had Lewis engineer the sessions.
Fafara will readily acknowledge the basic tenet of heavy metal is achieving the essence of power and complete freedom. At it’s most base level, it’s a concept that manifests itself in the form of a high-speed joyride, or defeating one’s antagonists, be they Frank Frazetta-rendered warriors or the guy/girl who was looking at your lover too long at the biker bar and now has a concussion and a collection of broken pool cues. On DevilDriver’s sixth release, Winter Kills, the band certainly didn’t skimp on the riffage, the idling-dragster tempos or the sheer sonic drive that makes them one of heavy music’s respected outfits. Winter Kills is all about the creation of flashover moments to empower people with hope and affirmation—or at the very least, the inspiration for people to create great work and their own meaningful universes. This ain’t no tired Tony Robbins posi-posturing or Joel Osteen’s cartoony, cash-and-Christ posing. The world got more oppressive, and both Fafara and DevilDriver are stepping up their game to keep hope alive in the most bone-powdering, cochlea-bleeding, neck-snapping way possible.