Dez Fafara has officially pushed the envelope to an extreme. When he was the vocalist of Coal Chamber in the 90s, he patented a unique blend of metal which combined nu metal with gothic elements. As if that wasn’t unique enough, this past summer Fafara threw a massive curveball with the release of a country covers metal album called Oulaws ‘til the End.
Fafara formed DevilDriver after the demise of Coal Chamber. In his new band he adopted a more mature groove metal sound in the vein of Machine Head and Chimaira. There were hints of Fafara’s country love when DevilDriver covered the 16 Horsepower song, “Black Soul Choir,” on their 2011 album Beast.
The album begins with Hank Williams III’s “Country Heroes,” with the son of Hank Williams Jr. doing his best Ozzy Osbourne impression alongside Fafara’s growls and Austin D’Amond’s hyper-fast drumming. Randy Blythe and his Lamb of God bandmate Mark Morton are featured on Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River,” with Morton’s black metal-style staccato riffing providing the darkest sounding song on the album.
Next up, is a heavy rendition of The Eagles’ “Outlaw Man,” which has a pedal steel being played alongside distorted guitars to create an extremely unique sound. Blythe also appears on Stan Jones’ “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” which has beautifully dynamic melodies and also features Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash and John’s wife Ana Cristina.
Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised” has to be the fastest and heaviest song on the album. George Jones’ “If Drinking Don’t Kill Me” features goth rocker Wednesday 13 and is particularly brutal. Both songs feature exceptional drumming performances from D’Amond.
Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” has a blackened atmosphere and guest vocalist Lee Ving’s chilling vocals perfectly complement the song. Dwight Yoakam’s “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” is the most country-sounding song, with Western-inspired guitar leads and clean vocals from rhythm guitarist Neil Tiemann laid on top of Fafara’s shouts.
Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” has guest vocalist Brock Lindow from 36 Crazyfists and very impressive guitar work. Richard Thompson’s “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me” has guest vocalist Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory, but aside from fun-sounding guitar leads it is probably the weakest track on the album.
Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” has poor lyrics, but it has the most classic sounding DevilDriver riffs, almost as if they came straight from Winter Kills. The last song is David Allan Cole’s “The Ride,” which has Lee Ving returning to deliver a strong clean vocal performance that complements Fafara well.
This is a bizarre idea that’s executed surprisingly well. The highlight of this album is by far D’Amond’s drumming. He’s sending out blastbeats at the speed of light and has extremely interesting off-beat drum fills that really accentuate Spreitzer’s blistering guitar leads and Tiemann’s harmonies. Bassist Diega Ibarra lays down a solid groove and Fafara’s signature barks are as powerful as ever. This is a great album if you want to listen to a fun and fresh idea.
Parker’s Picks: “I’m the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised,” “The Man Comes Around,” “If Drinking Don’t Kill Me,” “Whiskey River.”