Nice name for a nice album.
The self-titled Killer be Killed is the debut from metal super-group (you guessed it) Killer be Killed, and their line-up is pretty spectacular, with metal behemoth Max Cavalera, Mastodon bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders, The Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato and former The Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch (although he has since been replaced circa 2015 by Ben Koller of Converge fame).
Each member of the band plays an instrument and provides vocals (maybe not Elitch on vocals though…), and it works fantastically well. The diversity of each voice adds a tremendous amount of depth and variation to the album, but it is written with a great eye for a cohesive feel. Each song works on its own, but as a whole record is where Killer Be Killed needs to be heard.
Technically also, Killer Be Killed is an impressive album, particularly on the drums, where Dave Elitch shows that The Mars Volta and metal are not too far apart. Each member of the band has a different history in the metal genre, and each seem to have brought their own ideas onto this record, mixing the best of each and as far as assigning this album its own genre, or explaining how it sounds, I’m lost I’m afraid. It has moments of thrash, punk, hardcore, and maybe even a little prog – but to be honest the best way I can describe it is good, very, very good.
The opening to the record, Wings of Feather and Wax provides an ample, incredible way to introduce us to the idea of the band. It largely features Troy Sanders on vocals, but it gives plenty of time to Cavalera and Puciato as well – the singing of Sanders and Puciato working in tandem with the screamed vocals of Cavalera. It’s a unique sound, a heavy sound, and one that is endlessly enjoyable.
Each track seems to follow a pattern of using a lead vocalist, while the other two provide backing, or the chorus instead of the verses. Face Down for example features Cavalera as the lead, and as such, it is a heavier, faster track that plays to his vocal strengths with one killer (see what I did) chorus that supplies a crunchy sound often missing in other metal records.
Then we have Save the Robots, which starts with a robotic voice over some quieter bass lines, flowing into a cracking riff – indeed, the album is full of great riffs. This is an album with some great variety, even in each individual track.
However, it is not all brilliant. Fire to Your Flag for example is a 2:31 relentless track that repeats the line “set fire to your flag” quite a lot, they were going for the political theme, and I don’t think the lyrics are that good. Even in this song, one of the weaker of the album, we find an awesome breakdown, and a great riff, its redeeming aspects outweigh the negative ones. This trend is followed by the next track I.E.D. another of the politically charged tracks, which while pretty good, the lyrics leave little impression.
Indeed, lyrics in the album provide one of my only sticking points, at times they come across as maybe a little juvenile in their anger – this is not the most mature album you’ll ever listen to. That is not to say that the lyrics present in the album are a thing to scoff at, I’ve just heard better in my time.
Then there is Dust into Darkness, oh boy, if you thought Killer Be Killed was losing it by the mid-way point, this comes along and thrusts its early 2000s sound right into your ear drums. It is an incredible track fuelled by Sanders’ (I believe) downright incredible vocal performance in the verses, and Puciato’s just as good performance in the chorus. This is a song that can be listened to thousands of times – and a track that gets better every time you listen to it. This is a track that makes your hairs stand and form a mosh-pit.
There are no bad tracks on the album, however, with Fire to Your Flag probably providing the title of the worst, but that is no slouch. Killer Be Killed is a stellar debut record albeit from people who have been in the business for a long time collectively, each bringing their own strengths to what should be one of your favourite records.
Heavy, uncompromising, technical, well-written, Killer Be Killed proves that three vocalists are better than one. This is an album that can be listened to for years to come, it is diverse, yet cohesive – this is incredible, despite the slightly underwhelming lyrics in the more politically charged tracks. You owe it to yourself, and everyone else you know to buy and promote this record.
Killer Be Killed is phenomenal, simple, effective, and brilliant.