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Album Review: Killer Be Killed’s Self-Titled Debut Lives Up to Expecatations

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Over the years, supergroups have gotten a bad rep for almost never amounting to much outside of fleeting novelty. Of course, you have exceptions — off the top of my head, bands like Down and Murder Construct are nearly as celebrated as the original acts that spawned them — but more often than not, a meeting-of-the-minds in the world of metal tends to come up shorter than the sum of its parts. Fortunately, Killer Be Killed, the new project from Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta), is a proper culmination of influences that represents each member’s artistic lineage and talents in a manner that does each act’s legacy  justice.

Shades of Soulfly, Dillinger, and Mastodon not only come and go, but intermingle in near self-celebration. Max Cavalera’s patented thrashy groove metal style largely carries Killer Be Killed at its core, accented by Puciato (who also performs guitar) and his background in hardcore and his affinity for thrash. Sanders and Elitch also leave their mark, but it seems clear that they entered the project after many song skeletons were in place. That doesn’t stop them from making song-making contributions or performing ably as a rhythm section, as Sanders’ bass satisfyingly rattles under the action and Elitch has his moments of pure brilliance, as most evidenced during “Twelve Labors.”

Outside of the heavier tracks like “I.E.D.,” “Snakes of Jahova,” and “Fire To Your Flag,” Sanders and Puciato are able to concoct brilliantly catchy choruses, few and far between as they are. Opener “Wings of Feather and Wax,”  with its exhilarating larger-than-life vocal hooks, will have to battle Intervals’ “Ephemeral” for biggest earworm of 2014, and “Dust Into Darkness” plays vaguely like Dillinger’s Faith No More worship. We hear less of Cavalera’s throaty barks overall, but his presence serves as an exclamation of intensity, and is better felt through the instrumentals. The band also tentatively taps into the progressive sensibilities of the majority of its members. Closer “Forbidden Fire” changes shape through dynamic passages, and “Save the Robots” sports a weirded out intro with ethereal synths and vocodor.

There’s not much to be upset about with Killer Be Killed, but some may experience pacing issues. The outstanding “Wings of Feather and Wax” acts as a top-heavy album opener, and it’s the only song on the record of its kind. Killer Be Killed comes out swinging with a mean hook, and while the entire album is stellar, it doesn’t quite live up to that first slug to the chin. This aside, Killer Be Killed has worth and potential worth exploring beyond a single record. Between the four of these big names in rock and metal, there’s a goldmine of quality music to be made, and we’ve hopefully only just scratched the surface.

Killer Be Killed’s self-titled debut comes out May 13 on Nuclear Blast. You can listen to the songs “Wings of Feather and Wax” and “Face Down” here, and pre-order the album here.

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