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Devildriver: A New Level

Originally published in Guitar World, November 2009

Guitar World recently caught up with modern death metal outfit DevilDriver to discuss their latest release, Pray for Villains.

Since their caustic self-titled 2003 debut, modern death metal band DevilDriver have slowly integrated more hooks into their songs. But it’s their fourth offering, Pray for Villains, that really consolidates the musicians’ strengths into a cohesive, street-lethal hybrid of punishing rhythms, incisive guitar licks and penetrating melodies.

“We weren’t trying to do anything more commercial on this album,” guitarist Mike Spreitzer explains. “We just wanted to step up our game, so we added texture to a lot of the riffs and included other elements that would make the songs more memorable.”

Adds Jeff Kendrick, his co-guitarist, “We scrutinized everything and wrote more than ever, so we had more songs to choose from.”

DevilDriver have also diversified their attack, augmenting songs with industrial grooves (“Back with a Vengeance”), Swedish death metal harmonies (“I’ve Been Sober”) and acoustic ornamentation (“Foregiveness Is a Six Gun”). They’re also taxing their technical abilities with a surfeit of rhythm changes, unconventional time signatures and dazzling lead breaks. “Our goal is always to push our playing,” Spreitzer says. “That’s what makes you a better musician. At the same time, we’re not going to do something that doesn’t fit simply to be complicated.”

Originally, DevilDriver were scheduled to record Pray for Villains at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas, with producer Logan Mader (Cavalera Conspiracy, Divine Heresy). Instead, the band decided to save money by staying in Los Angeles and recording at Mader’s cozy-but-cramped Edge of the Earth studios. The shift in plans worked well for Spreitzer, who lives just 20 minutes away.

He says “Logan and I would come up with an idea, then he would work with someone else and I would go home and fine-tune the part at my own studio. I recorded all the clean guitars that way.”

Kendrick says that working with Mader was enjoyable for him as well, but for a different reason. “I was a huge fan of his when he played guitar in Machine Head,” Kendrick explains. “Having someone you respect like that can definitely add to the whole experience.”