I’ve never made any secret of the fact I’m a massive fan of Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan so I was obviously excited by the collaboration of Troy Sanders and Greg Puciato. You also have Max Cavalera, one of the most revered guitarists in metal with Sepultura and Soulfly. Then there’s David Elitch whose drumming for The Mars Volta got him to where he is now (his dealings with Timberlake, Cyrus et al aside).
‘Wings of Feather and Wax’ is a great starter on the self-titled album Killer Be Killed. Puciato and Sanders’ distinctive vocals make it sound familiar. It’s clearly got a massive stamp of chugging guitar from the Cavalera mould on it too. Maybe that’s what I like most about the album – drums aside; I’m no expert in that field – it’s like each member shines through in their own distinctive way. Every track on the album has that ever-present feeling of familiarity, but the opening track is bursting with it. Puciato’s more melodic side shines on ‘Melting of My Marrow’. Another ensemble vocal but this time leaving the “shouty-shouty” stuff to Sanders and Cavalera for the most part. Puciato’s range is frightening and I’m often left wondering how the guy has a voice left after years of punishing his throat with the raspy shrieking that he’s noted for.
There’s an abundance of styles and influences throughout the album, probably no more so than on ‘Snakes of Jehovah’ where it fluctuates between different stylings for all four minutes and two seconds. Its marching intro giving way to a Puciato vs. Cavalera scream-off. Sanders coming in over the top with an almost god-like serenity to neutralise the shoutiness and give a form of balance over the building groove. Cavalera’s influence on ‘Curb Crusher’ is instantly recognisable. Just listen to the charging guitar on the intro and chorus. It’s uncomplicated and with its thundering change of pace throughout, it has Sepultura written all over it. Sanders’ additional vocals throw you off the scent a little but I feel it also adds to the track and not detracting from it.
Elitch takes centre stage on ‘Save The Robots’ where his drumming is elevated to another level. As I mentioned, I’m no expert when it comes to drums but they just sound immense on this track in particular. That’s not to say they’re disappointing on the rest of the album, it’s just that they stand out somewhat here. ‘Save the Robots’ makes way to the most politically charged song on the album – ‘Fire to Your Flag’ – which kind of tells the story for itself by title alone. It’s an angsty, quick two-and-a-half minute call to arms.
One of the weaker tracks is ‘I.E.D.’ which fails to get out of second gear. It just doesn’t hit the mark. ‘Dust Into Darkness’ elevates the mood again and has such a catchy, groovy pre-chorus hook and head-bang-inducing verse that the best of you will find it very hard to stop yourself from nodding along in time to the beat. Lastly we have ‘Twelve Labors’ and ‘Forbidden Fire’. The former is full of reverb/echo atmosphere with its chugging guitar and simply, haunting vocal. The latter is a bit of an anti-climax to what is a fantastic album. Sanders takes the lead and puts his stamp down hard on this one. It’s a slow-burner, not going out with a bang. A slow-lingering death as opposed to the expected killing of a killer.
Having listened to the album a few times now, it has me pondering what this could lead to. It’s clear that every track has a touch of all groups entwined but will this be a one-off or even a new direction for a group who I’d say are in their prime with their respective ‘other’ bands – certainly true of Sanders and Puciato. This is where it can get messy; managing time between two bands can be a difficult and extremely challenging experience. Not to mention the feelings of those who they’re leaving behind to go and do their own thing.
Personally, I hope they are able to get round this challenge and give us more, soon. Although I do think I’ve come up with a better album title for the next effort – Your Soul Will Fly on a Mastodon in Your Escape From Mars – what do you think?