It seems that cover albums generally split opinion. Is it simply having fun and paying tribute to your heroes, and an introduction for some to the music that inspired you? Or is it a cop-out when your insatiable and hungry fanbase are begging for new material?
Circle pit kings DevilDriver releasing a country covers album certainly wasn’t foreseen by many. Outlaw-country-gone-metal will certainly get people talking, and you cannot fault ‘Outlaws ‘Til The End, Vol. 1’ as a statement of intent.
There should be plenty going on here to keep us intrigued; frontman Dez Fafara‘s character and personality, some big-name guest vocalists, and in perhaps the biggest testament to the record, John Carter Cash and Hank Williams III, who both have ancestral ties to country legends, make appearances.
Despite the style of the songs covered, this album is still unashamedly metal. This contains DevilDriver‘s signature groove, and a flurry of blast beats in the first two tracks get us in gear. There’s also plenty of energy and bounce throughout thanks to Austin D’Amond‘s drumming.
We have Randy Blythe‘s (Lamb Of God) trademark growl on two tracks, ‘Whiskey River’ and ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’, and his appearance in the former definitely assists the fury. ‘Copperhead Road’, assisted by Brock Lindow (36 Crazyfists), helps to make for a great sing-along, and the same can be said for ‘A Thousand Miles From Nowhere’, which is one of the album’s strongest highlights.
Whatever your opinions on country music, DevilDriver demonstrate that its personal and sometimes dark nature can translate well to metal. ‘Dad’s Gonna Kill Me’ is lifted by Burton C. Bell‘s (Fear Factory) brooding vocals, and keeps the underlying darkness present. As for ‘The Man Comes Around’, the punk inspired sections along with the charisma of Wednesday 13 help to ignite the circle pit.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original versions, or even the album’s concept, you wouldn’t think that these were country songs to begin with. This is a fun listen at best, and generally this is a job well done. However, the biggest drawback is that around the middle point of the album the novelty of the idea begins to wear off, and you can predict what the rest of the songs will sound like.
Whilst the concept of this album deserves praise and is executed very well, it’s really hard to imagine DevilDriver picking up new fans off the back of this. Then again, the band have been around for sixteen years now, so what have they got to lose? Whatever you think of this, DevilDriver deserve kudos for trying something different.