DevilDriver – Dealing with Demons Vol. II (Album Review)

DevilDriver – Dealing with Demons Vol. II 
Released: May 12, 2023

Line Up

Dez Fafara – Vocals
Mike Spreitzer – Guitar
Jon Miller – Bass
Alex Lee – Guitar
Davier Pérez – Drums



I don’t think anyone has ever doubted the work ethic of metal icon Dez Fafara. He ambitiously announced in 2017 that DevilDriver would be releasing an album a year for the next four or so years, and whilst there’s been roadblocks (skin cancer, pandemic, a serious bout of COVID-19, changing band members), the man has delivered with Vol II of the Dealing with Demons saga arriving two and a half years after Vol I (review here). If anything the delays have made the band hungrier, and Vol II is far angrier and more aggressive than the first instalment. The title is spot on, as Fafara lets out decades of loathing, hate and frustration across the nine tracks. 

For the uninitiated, DevilDriver are often described as groove metal but, like Lamb of God, have the kind of metal dexterity that extreme metal bands envy. Guitarist Mike Sprenitzer is a master of many riff styles, giving DD a consistent songwriting style that draws on death and black metal, while still being able to thrash, groove and throw melody into the crucible when the tune calls for it. It’s inevitable that listeners will compare this second part to the first, and there are notable differences I will get to – but this is very much a DevilDriver record that is consistent with their previous eight albums. The likes of ‘Through the Depths’ and the ferocious ‘Summoning’ are classic DevilDriver, harkening back to albums like The Last Kind Words (2007) with huge hooks and killer riffs backed by bludgeoning drums. The quality of the choruses was a highlight of Vol I, so hearing that Dez can still twist a phrase and deliver it with pure sincerity and gusto makes Vol II a killer experience. 

There’s often a fair bit going on with DevilDriver musically, so production matters and straight out of the gate Steve Evetts has nailed it. Opener ‘I Have No Pity’ sounds enormous, building from the Pink Floyd-esque intro into a determined stomp that reflects the cold hearted lyrics barked by Dez. The leads work well in the mix, while never losing the rhythm section or rhythm guitar. I don’t know who inspired the track but fair to say they won’t be crossing Dez again anytime soon. The two part guitar solo and harmony is clearly a labour of love that gives the song a real edge. ‘Mantra’ draws on Dez’s appreciation for the occult with an eerie blackened death metal riff. It’s more of a grind than the first track without losing any power. Dez is more introspective here, finding a way to deal with his demons and the laughter “from the cracks in the walls.” 

It’s not all savage though. First single ‘Through the Depths’ opens with an old school 80s style melodic intro and then going sick with blast beats. That full range of extreme I mentioned earlier is on display with the verses having some serious groove and the singalong is just *chef’s kiss*. Just listen to the guitars twisting and turning between rhythm and leads across the whole song. Whilst the grouting growl is Dez’s go-to, he’s able to switch his tone and phrasing to get his message across. 

What then does one make of the mechanical surge that is ‘Bloodbath’? Over a grinding djent riff, Dez lets go of his anger and calls for blood. It’s Dez in his preacher mode, calling on listeners: “WE MUST DECIDE TODAY, TO BECOME THE HUNTER AND NOT THE PREY!” At this point one must simply headbang or enter the pit as some sort of sacrifice. Dez’s charisma is such that thousands will obey when he calls for a circle pit at their next festival appearance. He backs it up with the slower but no less impactful, ‘It’s a Hard Truth’, a declaration that “all delusion is just an illusion” so “live fully while you may!” It’s a punishing message but one he’s fully invested in and it rubs off.

The introspection continues on ‘If Blood is Life’, a lament on death and grief that is backed by a brilliant melodic lead by Sprenitzer. It stops too for an acoustic passage before erupting again. It’s an interesting sequence to unpack as Dez goes from being determined to live, to accepting death. Maybe the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. 

The climax of this emotional journey is ‘This Relationship Broken’. It pulls together the lyrical and musical motifs with the focus on friends and love lost – in some ways the ultimate demon. The song is almost thrashy but with a staccato riff that incorporates groove. The verses and chorus repeat, hammering the idea (and the riffs) that there’s “NO EASY WAY OUT!” And maybe that’s what Dez has learned from his hard work and overcoming hardships both personally and professionally. Dealing with Demons isn’t a sequence of emotional records so much as it is a mantra of acceptance that life is hard and takes work to find happiness. 

I wasn’t sure what to make of this when I started but as a follow up to Vol I it hits the mark. It’s a more personal record than it appears on the surface and whilst, it’s missing some of the surprise clean vocals that featured on ‘Wishing’, it’s got a savagery that is captivating in a different way. This is a band that knows what they do best and have executed it on Dealing with Demons Vol II

DevilDriver – Dealing with Demons Vol. II Track Listing: 

  1. I Have No Pity
  2. Mantra
  3. Nothing Lasts Forever
  4. Summoning
  5. Through the Depths
  6. Bloodbath
  7. It’s a Hard Truth
  8. If Blood is Life
  9. This Relationship, Broken

Rating: 8 / 10
Dealing with Demons Vol.II is out May 12 on Napalm Records. Pre-Order here.
Review by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram). 

DevilDriver 2023