Like most metal heads, I have my list of records I can barely wait for. Opeth, Mastodon, and Killer Be Killed top that list, and I’m glad as hell to get my hands on an early copy of Killer Be Killed’s debut album. Unless Metallica are your favorite metal band, you probably heard a thing or two about the supergroup composed of Troy Saunders (Mastodon), Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy), Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta). There are so many sub-genres of metal now, even Goblin metal if your niche isn’t filled yet, so it’s nice to see guys from all walks of metal life come together for an ambiguous heavy metal offering.
Producer, Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Gojira), gives the group direction, allowing each member to bring their best, encouraging the guys to represent their chosen genres effectively. The influences are broad, bringing elements of thrash, hardcore, punk, doom, death, and even melodic metal to the new record. Personally, I had great faith in this group as soon as I heard the bands’ members. You can’t assemble this much metal talent and not expect big things. It’s my pleasure to say this record is everything I hoped it would be. I admit I was a little worried when I finally held this in my hands. Would the influence of sludge, progressive, tempo-shifting metal, screaming vocals, math metal, and the like merge well into a coalescing listening experience? I’m happy and surprised to report this is a fairly straight-shooter when it comes to music. The vocals switch in and out with ease, allowing the members to shine and offer their unique signature sound. This is a fucking awesome record, so let’s just get to it.
Track 1. Wings of Feather and Wax
Formulaic isn’t always a bad thing, obviously when the formula works. The first song (and single) Wings of Feather and Wax plays it safe in my opinion. Maybe not a terrible approach for the worlds’ first exposure to such a highly anticipated release. I’m not one of those hopelessly impossible to please metal heads, so I didn’t expect the first single to be a Ghosts of Perdition of Xenochrist number. The song is strong, powerful, straight forward, and it packs a killer hook. This has a catchy ass chorus and made for a great Killer Be Killed ground zero moment.
Track 2. Face Down
This track released along with Wings and has a similar vibe. The song has a pounding riff throughout and features more of the anticipated vocal trading. All three vocalists add a raw element to the mix, leaning more toward an older Mastodon song than anything. The breakdown riff at the end plays out like an aggressive Ambien buzz. Droning vocals and trippy guitars usher the song out.
Track 3. Melting of My Marrow
This is the first evidence of the band missing the mark in my opinion. I love the melody of the first verse, only to cringe at the forced syncopated bridge that feels awkwardly inserted. The band launches into another piece with an unexpected 4/4 grove, and still ends up at ends with themselves. I love me some tempo and riff shifting like a fool, but this one feels forced to me.
Track 4. Snakes of Jehova
This is an old school kind of discordant verse/bridge/chorus progression that pulls in contemporary visions of Slipknot or even System of a Down. Cool lyrics and a great post verse riff brings the band to a double-bass crescendo before vamping out with a riff reminiscent of old Sepultura. The more I listen to this song, it’s my least favorite off the album.
Track 5. Curb Crusher
Love the nice chunk-chunk-chunk intro, the chaotic verse/bridge, and the eventual melodic chorus reinforced with the opening riff. It really feels like the band members are shifting to the right in Curb Crusher, each briefly assuming the traits of their band mates’ main group. Another big hook that dives back into slow, chunk-chunk-chunk groves. Love this song.
Track 6. Save the Robots
Such a cool song. Things slow down to a medium pace, sounding once again more like The Hunter-era Mastodon than anything else. Long open chords ring out in the mid-section, punctuated with galloping double-bass and ambient prog riffs leading the way out. I love the hammering kick drum between wah-heavy riffs. Robots is a very catchy song, very richly layered and recorded.
Track 7. Fire to Your Flag
Another super sonic sampling of all the singers against a buzz saw riff. I kept thinking every other song would turn into a potentially unnecessary prog fest, but the band is good at keeping things simpler than I expected. The song isn’t a throwaway by any means, but this doesn’t compete with the notable powerhouse tracks.
Track 8. I.E.D.
IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE! I feel like this song is somehow about improvised explosive devices? This song features some great metal guitar riffs, so crunched out as to make Pantera jealous. I love the sections where the band belts out several measures of straight 4/4 grooves to contrast the rapidly evolving twists and turns. Love some angry vocals.
Track 9. Dust into Darkness
Maybe the most modern rock sounding track from the album. The Dillinger Escape Plan influence is obvious in the huge, melodic chorus. Troy’s ambient backing vocals lend the song towards XM Liquid Metal greatness. I can imagine hearing this on the way to work every day.
Track 10. Twelve Labors
Say what you want about the unexpected heavy prog influence, the guitar tones on KBK are fucking amazing. Here’s another great example about the bands merging styles with a simple chugging verse and haunting, melodic chorus. If anyone sounds fucking pissed, its Cavalera with his sudden, acidic bursts of fury. The song does switch up tempo and sections after the midpoint, swimming smoothly through acid fueled ambiance.
Track 11. Forbidden Fire
Ah, the requisite slow, drug-inspired song with tons of space. Delicate ride cymbal beats dance around with atonal bass riffs, leaving the verbed out guitars to languidly guide the song towards a trippy chorus. The song slows and fades, taking the widely anticipated Killer Be Killed album with it.
That’s it, kids. Killer Be Killed can now be obsessively listened to in cars and homes everywhere, sending the deeply curious in search of complexities not gleaned from a cursory three or four listens. Were all the months of obsessing worth it for you? I’m happy to report my only issue with the album is the lack of more prog-heavy runs. I’m one of those metal heads that loves both old school AND new school Opeth and Mastodon. Frank Zappa is my musical idol and I expect more from those given superior skill and ability, even if it means some fans will be pissed off. The “supergroup” moniker, if anything, is what could potentially gain some metal community disdain. Metal heads are a weird, nearly impossible to satisfy group of people, regardless of which genre(s) they call home – myself included. My early feelings about this album are worn on my sleeve, I dig this record and only expect it to grow on me. These are solid songs, some more than others as with ANY release, and the overall vibe is everything I wanted from such individually skilled bands. The record is a clear sum of their musical parts. I pray to God I can catch these guys live. Maybe on tour with Mastodon?