Despite several lineup changes over the years, Devildriver continue to lay down the bludgeoning, as witnessed on their last release, Trust No One.
When they announced a cover album of all outlaw country, my first thought wasn’t positive. This combination just doesn’t seem to work in my mind. Pedal steel and blast beats? Hmm … Well, I am happy to say that I stand corrected. Outlaws ‘Til the End Vol. 1 fucking crushes! Dez Fafara brings aboard a cast of special guests, and, together, they make this one dynamic and punishing album. Yes, these are country songs, but if you didn’t know that from the beginning, you may never know. Devildriver own this album, and they make these classic songs their own in a very special way.
“Country Heroes,” a song by legendary Hank Williams III, opens up the album with the original songwriter as a guest. Hank III has metal coursing through his veins, and they take this song to a special level. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years, and this is a natural fit for the album opener. Lamb of God’s Mark Morton and Randy Blythe join Dez and company on a blistering cover of Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River.” It is pure country, and this cover not only nails the original, but it takes it to a totally new level of metal heaviness. “Outlaw Man,” an early Eagles song, actually sounds like a Devildriver original. The band make it their own with a phenomenal rereading of the track. Johnny Cash’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky” features John Carter Cash, Ana Cristina Cash, and Randy Blythe, and it pays the respect due to “The Man in Black.” He would be very proud of this one. Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m the Only Hell (Momma Ever Raised)” is another that sounds written by Devildriver. It could be at home on any of their albums. “If Drinking Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” by George Jones is raw and powerful. Wednesday 13 guests and gives the chorus a cool vibe. “The Man Comes Around,” another track by Johnny Cash, is my favorite here. Lee Ving of Fear makes this one special. “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” originally by Dwight Yoakam, is the catchiest song on the album and should resonate with all touring acts.
Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” was my biggest fear on this album, believe it or not. The original is stellar and has that southern-tinged feel that I didn’t think could be reproduced. Fortunately, Devildriver nail it! Brock Lindow of 36 Crazyfists lends his pipes here, and he compliments Dez’ vocals in a great way. “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” originally by Richard Thompson, is the only song I had never heard before. Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory guests here, and this is another that the band completely makes their own. This one is another of the catchier songs here, and really has grown on me. “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. seems like it would be the most unfit song for a metal band to cover, but it works very well here. Austin D’Amond’s drumming is nothing short of spectacular. David Allan Coe’s The Rid is a very fitting tribute and it takes the album out in fine fashion. Ving also appears on this one, and he and Devildriver truly make it something cool.
Devildriver‘s Mike Spreitzer, Neil Tiemann, Diego Ibarra, and Austin D’Amond show what truly great musicians they are here. Their ability to adapt these songs and make them sound original is a tall feat, but they cover that aspect in spades. The cover art is also something extremely cool here. I found out what a small world it truly is, when I discovered that an old high school friend of mine, Johnny Jones of COMA Art, designed this beauty.
Outlaws Till The End is out now on Napalm Records. Buy it here!