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DevilDriver's Neal Tiemann and Mike Spreitzer on taking the road less shreddy: ”It’s cooler if we play something hard”

DevilDriver
That's Neal Tiemann [left] with the Dunable and Mike Spreitzer with the ESP (Image credit: Ben Hoffman)

It's been four years since Southern California groove metal stalwarts DevilDriver released their last record, Trust No One, an album that cemented the group as a pillar of the genre. 

Building on that momentum, 2018 found the band writing more than 30 tracks for its most ambitious project to date – a double album. 

Conceived by lead vocalist Dez Fafara, Dealing with Demons I & II discards the formulas of the past and elicits the band’s heaviest, most exploratory collection of riffs to date. 

Its lyrical themes prove prescient given the current pandemic, where humans find themselves separated from one another. Fittingly, the visceral lead single, Keep Away from Me, was released in May.

Helming the riff writing are guitarists Neal Tiemann and Mike Spreitzer. Production began with a prolific catalog of riffs that Tiemann had been writing when off the road, influenced by everything from Stephen King books to the cold drink in front of him.

“Neal had roughly 20 songs written by the time I wrote one!” Spreitzer says. This time, the focus had changed. “It will sound counterintuitive to a lot of metalheads, but Neal and I discussed slowing this record down a bit compared to [previous albums]. The songs don’t necessarily have to sound slower if you’re in a slower tempo, but it leaves a bit more openness and lets things breathe a little bit more.”

For tones, Tiemann’s stable included his trusty Dunable R2s and amps including Soldano and Peavey, because, “You’ve got to have a 5150 in your arsenal,” Spreitzer says. Perhaps most inspiring for both guitarists, though, was an early-run Bogner Ecstasy. 

“It’s got some magic in it, for sure,” Tiemann says. Pushing further meant rethinking guitar playing. “I’m trying not to write solos like I used to – period,” Spreitzer says. “I’d say less ‘shreddy.’ I’ve been favoring dissonance a lot more than I used to – solos with minor and major second intervals and using the tri-tone more often.”

“I used to want to play as fast and heavy, but it’s cooler if we’re on the same page and play something hard. I think that’s a maturity thing,” Tiemann adds. The band released Dealing with Demons I on October 9, with the second volume following in 2021.

  • DevilDriver's new double album, Dealing with Demons I & II, is out now via Napalm Records.