There are two things certain with supergroups: they will have a silly name (I’m looking at you Chickenfoot) and be comprised mainly of the lesser known musicians from the bands which the group claims to made up from.
Fortunately, the new metal supergroup Killer Be Killed only suffers from the former, because the lineup is nothing short of incredible. The group consists of Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy & ex-Sepultura vocalist and guitarist), Troy Sanders (Mastodon vocalist and bassist), Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist & guitarist) and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta drummer).
Killer Be Killed’s self-titled is primarily thrash-orientated, but offers much more creativity than typical efforts from the genre. Snakes of Jehovah‘s pulsing guitar riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on a Slayer album, indicating that Cavalera had a heavy say in the musical direction. This is even more evident on I.E.D. and Face Down, which compresses his Brazilian groove and aggression into a brutal attack, that hits harder than a derailed freight train. As the only thrash-orientated musician, Cavalera naturally sounds most at home throughout; spitting venomous lyrics on top of chugging open-sixth string riffs. Surprisingly Puciato’s hardcore-style screams work equally as well alongside Cavalera within the high-octane Fire To Your Flag. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, Sander’s slower, bellowing vocal style fails to assimilate on the faster tracks, with the only exception being on I.E.D.
However Sanders’ weaknesses stop there. On Curb Crusher he takes charge of the chorus, providing a wonderful melodic hook amongst the Fear Factory-like assault. Sanders is also exceptional in the sludge-inspired verses of Wings Of Feather and Wax and Dust Into Darkness, ultilising a vocal style that was predominant on mastodon’s earlier records. These two tracks feature the most melodic choruses on the record because Puciato takes over, producing similar results to The Dillinger Escape’s Plan’s most accessible songs, Black Bubblegum and Milk Lizard.
Across the album Elitch works hard to showcase his talents, but avoids overtaking the song or overpowering the guitars. It’s not until the trio of vocalists step away from the microphone that he truly comes to life, such as his magnificently hectic drumming during the instrumental bridge of Save The Robots; a skill picked up whilst playing the technically demanding music of The Mars Volta.
The collective progressive influences of the four members were always going to end up scattered throughout Killer Be Killed’s debut effort. The album closer Forbidden Fire uses haunting, clean motifs as a foundation to build the heavier chorus sections upon, whilst the experimental Save The Robots features electronically altered vocals in the intro and the second bridge, and a chorus driven by a wah-based guitar lick. However, there are times when the mixing of styles doesn’t quite pay off, such as the third track Melting Of My Marrow, which sounds like a Mastodon chorus, a Soulfly pre-chorus and a melodic ‘Dillinger’ verse have been awkwardly sewn together, creating the aural equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster.
Lyrically Killer Be Killed is politically charged, but also makes many references towards Greek mythology, such as the story of Icarus in Wings of Feather and Wax, the Twelve Labours of Hercules in Twelve Labors and a reference to Medusa in Snakes of Jehovah. The strong concepts of each song really help to bind the album together, creating a work that is clearly focused and easy to digest.
Killer Be Killed is easily the strongest metal supergroup debut since Down came out with NOLA in 1995 and is bound to feature very highly on end-of-year album lists. This record somehow manages to amalgamate each member’s ideas and skills in a succinct fashion, producing something that will invite you in with tantalising vocal hooks, before pummeling you round the head and kicking you to the floor.
Overall Score: 8/10
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