DevilDriver: Live Review
By guest writer Julia Neuman
February 12th 2010, House Of Blues, West Hollywood CA:As a chick who is currently at the height of her DevilDriver obsession, I was so looking forward to the band's last tour stop at HOB Sunset. Not only had I heard exceptional things about DevilDriver's live shows, but I was also anxious to see a couple bands that have eluded me thus far: Goatwhore and Suffocation.
The opening band of the night, Thy Will Be Done, came out with confidence and lots of energy. Evidently they have a decent following in the LA area, because several fans screamed "We love you, Jesus!!!" at singer J. Costa, referring to the band's Christian lyrical themes. I wasn't blown away, but I also wasn't bored to tears with their set; while I feel indifferent to the band based on this performance alone, I think the lead guitarist, Chris Drapeau, proved that he is extremely talented. He nailed all of his solos and single-handedly provided a hint of great potential for this band.
Going into Goatwhore's set, I had extremely high expectations. They have gained quite a following in the metal community in the last decade, which of course says something about their music and live performances. They delivered a great set, but there wasn't anything there to warrant an exceptional review. Ben Falgoust II did keep the crowd's energy up throughout and everyone seemed to be really into their set. I'll be looking forward to seeing them again when they come around next, and maybe then they'll spark my interest a little bit more then.
The legends of Suffocation were up next. The crowd went crazy, and in about five minutes the HOB went from being somewhat rowdy to full-on furious with excitement. The large number of die-hard Suffocation fans began an intense circle pit and simultaneously managed to pack the barricade so tightly that everyone was breathing down each other's necks. There's no denying Suffocation's ability to please a crowd. While I was entirely unenthused about Frank Mullen's extreme vocals and hokey stage presence (the Kiss tongue and the wavy hand were interesting to say the least; all of you Suffocation fans know what I'm talking about), he does have a seemingly unparalleled ability to captivate an audience filled with death metal elitists. I will give credit where credit is due: if the extremely downtuned guitars and intense gutteral vox are your thing, then there is no doubt that Suffocation is going to rank at the top of your list.
After Suffocation, it seemed like the pit did a giant flip-flop. The people who were in the back for Suffocation now came forward, and the Suffocation fans stepped back to let the DevilDriver fans come up toward the rail. The stage curtain closed while the crew set up the stage for the headliner, and this only added to my anticipation for the last set of the night.
A few minutes later, the lights dimmed and Gerard McMann's "Cry Little Sister" started to play. It definitely did not seem to fit and left fans with some perplexed looks on their faces, but soon enough the curtain was drawn and the familiar sound of the intro to "End of the Line" filled the venue. There was definitely an electric atmosphere as the band took the stage, immediately high fived several fans and assumed their positions. I'll make it clear right from the get-go that DevilDriver put on an outstanding show. In fact, it surpassed my expectations. The mark of an exceptional live show is when you're left craving more several days later. I'm sure though that their incredibly short set only exacerbated my feeling of wanting more, but I guess that's what happens when you have two major bands in the same show. Set lengths are pretty much sliced in half.
The DevilDriver live experience consisted of tight vocals from Dez, heavy bass and plenty of windmilling from Jon, face-melting guitar tone from Jeff and Mike, and of course, the solid (and underrated) drumming from John. The crowd favorites "Clouds Over California" and "I Could Care Less" invoked frenzy in the pit and on the rail. I credit Mike and Jeff for an exceptionally heavy guitar tone throughout the night. I can now say that there are few things more fun than being crushed against the rail at a DevilDriver show, with Mike Spreitzer and Jon Miller headbanging simultaneously three feet in front of you.
The whole set was metal nirvana, especially during the band's best song of the night, "Grinfucked." It was definitely the standout and the performance was spot on. On a different but related note, Dez Fafara has some serious experience working a crowd. The man is a master on stage, able to connect on a deep level with the crowd while keeping a casual cool aura that is so characteristic of DevilDriver. That's another thing that makes this band so great: their brutally awesome live show, in tandem with their twinge of mysteriousness (DevilDriver have always managed to gain a massive following, while seeming to lay lower under the media radar than a lot of other bands). Although the band is known for their extensive touring stints, Dez mentioned to the crowd that touring may be light for the next year or so as the band works on their upcoming album.
In short, DevilDriver delivers a must-see concert. No matter what kind of metal you are into or what kind of genre label you attach to their name, you'd be wise to get yourself to one of DevilDriver's shows and prepare yourself for an experience to remember!Check out these bands here:
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