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Monday, June 02, 2014

Hybrid theory success as Killer Be Killed defy definition

SUPERGROUPS and side projects...they can be hit or miss at the best of times, but when you combine hard-hitting, talented metal musos familiar with the side project concept and demanding the highest standards of themselves it's a sure-fire hit.

Killer Be Killed - Greg Puciato, Max Cavalera, Troy Sanders, and Dave Elitch. The combined pedigree of these four in the metal pantheon is well documented and well known. But pedigree is one thing, when you put all the parts in a mongrel, hybrid, amalgam surely it can't work?

But it does. And as to what it sounds like- here's what they say:

“This is a very special project. It’s a one of a kind thing, with a lot of potential,” said Cavalera. “The album is a mix of heavy, fast and melodic songs.” 

“It’s a bit of Sabbath-y doom, a bit of thrash, a bit of hardcore and punk,” Puciato said. 
What they don't mention is that there are also many progressive elements lurking in the soundscape, no doubt partly as a result of Sanders' influence.
As a statement, Cavelera's defiant growl on the title track (and band name) "We are what we are" sums up to a large extent what this band is - an attempt to distill four different musicians in  a heavy project that differs from the participants usual turf, but is instead a mélange of metal, with the edge of punk.
Vocal duties are shared between Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Cavalera (Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy and many more) and Sanders (Mastodon) while Elitch (Mars Volta) produces impressive rhythms and fills: his talent exposed behind a trio well used to having creative eclectic drum lines.
What it all combines to make is one hell of an aggressive, charged album. While it doesn't veer too much from the extreme metal template, it is the flourishes and melodic lines that stand out, along with Sanders and Elitch's pattern weaving.
Opener 'Wings of Feather and Wax' and 'Curb Crusher' manage to achieve that delicate balance of melody and brutality. Definitely top notch songs but as with all the Killer Be Killed tracks they defy easy categorization beyond agreeing with Pucuiato's statement above.
For example the techno start to 'Save The Robots' melds into a mid-paced (comparatively speaking) intro and first verse, which then pushes furiously into a mid-section and then slows down to a crushing riff behind spoken lyrics.
The variety in each song could be seen by the less well attuned as throwing everything in, including the metal kitchen sink, but that is to miss the point. Each member has their own take on this mad metal world we love: blending them together with the skill of gardener growing new varieties of roses is no easy task.
The mathcore, death, exteme, prog, hardcore and punk elements could overwhelm the sound, but the production of Josh Milbur (whose credits include Gojira, Lamb of God and...Steve Earle) has a definite separation that allows the elements to come through clearly.
It is also a politically charged album in terms of lyrics. 'I.E.D.' and 'Snakes of Jehova' are perfect examples of casting a cynical eye on a dystopian world. 'I.E.D.' is perhaps one of the stand-out tracks, with a definite mission to deliver muscle with finely judged bridges and breakdowns as Cavalera rages.
But in singling that track out, it is perhaps fair to say that listeners will highlight their own choice: 'Dust into Darkness' and 'Fire to your Flag' could equally have been our choices, as could 'Facedown' or any of the tracks.

Puciato and Sanders vocals complement the mix, which could have so easily been dominated by Cavalera's distinctive growl against the backdrop of such an in-your-face album.
Killer Be Killed should not work - but it does in a way many so-called crossover acts would kill for. Each listen of this album has you discovering new elements and facets to the sound and structure of tracks - and surely that is the sign of an album worth the effort from those who conceived this hybrid.
Killer Be Killed is out on Nuclear Blast
Review by Jonny

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