Release Date: 20/11/2020
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
For Fans Of: Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sepultura, Gojira
The individuals who make up Killer Be Killed reads like some sort of Avengers-level crossover event for fans of modern heavy music. The band brings together the talents of Greg Puciato, Troy Sanders, Max Cavalera and Ben Koller and let’s face it, there is no danger of any metalhead passing on new music from those four men. So it is easy to understand why the band’s second album, Reluctant Hero, has been recorded in secret over the past few years. These kinds of collaborations can so often end up being swallowed by their own hype, but not only have Killer Be Killed easily skipped past that trap, they’ve also managed to deliver one of the best metal albums of the year.
One of the greatest strengths of Reluctant Hero and biggest testament to the talent of those involved, is how recognisable each member seems to be without ever really sounding like any of their other bands or projects. Picking out the distinctive voices of Puciato and Sanders is a given, yet they often offer very different sides to themselves across this record. Hearing the former wail over a balls-to-the-wall metal chorus in ‘Deconstructing Self-Destruction’ or the later lending his pipes to hearty ‘Whooaaoo’s along with Cavalera in ‘Filthy Vagabond’ is simply infectious. This interplay between all three vocalists and how each compliments the other is such a huge part of the personality of the record but also makes it clear just how much fun each of them had in its creation.
Sonically the band strike a perfect blend between metal extremity and a more palatable rock sound with gnarly riffs and white-hot noise giving way to some unexpectedly huge choruses. While ‘Animus’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Anaal Nathrakh album, equally some of the hooks on ‘Dream Gone Bad’ and ‘Left of Centre’ could easily sit alongside those heard on mainstream rock radio. Equally while ‘Inner Calm From Outer Storms’ provides the kind of sludgy-doomy riffage you would expect to come from a Cavelera/Sanders combo, there are some real air-guitar style flourishes in ‘Filthy Vagabond’ which perfectly align with that track’s general motif of loving living life on the road and that classic heavy metal lifestyle.
Here is where Killer Be Killed really do show their chemistry and talent as a band though. The second half of the record shows a surprising amount of emotional weight with tracks like ‘From A Crowded Wound’ which steadily moves through a very progressive structure all leading to Puciato’s killer suckerpunch of a line ‘I’m convinced all roads lead back to you’. As all good showmen though, the band leave the best till last with the title track providing a perfect conclusion to the album. Puciato’s tender yet immensely powerful delivery on ‘Reluctant Hero’ is almost entirely different from the rest of the record and seems to be a slightly simpler yet no less effective version of what The Dillinger Escape Plan were reaching for on Dissociation with an emphasis on atmosphere and build leading to an incredible pay-off.
The quality of this record really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Although we’ve all been burned by supposed ‘supergroups’ before, we’ve all heard enough from each of these musicians before to know that they’re always worth paying attention to. What is a welcome surprise though is just how much ground Killer Be Killed cover here. Despite all the different elements though, Reluctant Hero never feels stretched or bloated, everything is given the time it needs to breathe yet always feels like it’s moving forward. This is the sound of four-top class musicians kicking back, letting loose and enjoying their time in the studio, and it is just as much fun listening to it.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Deconstructing Self-Deconstruction’,’ ‘Reluctant Hero’