Words by Carly Gibbs
It’s been six whole years since supergroup marvels Killer Be Killed released their self-titled debut album, leaving fans wondering if they had left us for dead after the Soundwave shows that they played on our shores back in 2015. Whilst we thought we had been abandoned, Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy), Troy Sanders (Mastodon, Gone is Gone), Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Queen) and Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man and All Pigs Must Die) had been working on and off on the new album since about 2016 and always had the intention of rising from the ashes like a proverbial Phoenix. ‘Reluctant Hero’ was a brilliantly, well-kept secret enabling the band to work on their tenacious, creative vision without the pressure of expectation weighing heavily on their shoulders. That seems to have been a solid power move because ‘Reluctant Hero’ is an absolute stellar album.
A robotic voice announces “Contemplate self-destruction” on first track Deconstructing Self-Destruction and something in my brain switches to think I’ve put on Andrew W.K.’s Party Hard. Clearly not. The familiar, husky, dank tones of Sanders’ vocals pleasantly knock me back into check. Sanders’s is not new to sharing the front man spotlight with his fellow band mates but the way Cavalera, Sanders and Puciato share the vocal responsibility is flawless, like an Olympic relay team deftly handing the baton to the next to propel the team with their own unique vocal style. Considering the are all so very different they complement each other so very perfectly. It is super hooky, has a big stomp on it with Cavalera and Koller supplying that extra bit of grunt.
Dream Gone Bad is anything but. Despite its name and its melancholic feel, this track actually has a really positive message with lyrics “Never too late, time to turn it all around, never too late, and you’ll never walk alone” and the track ending with Puciato screaming “Walk into the light”. Who said heavy metal is all about blood, guts and murder? It is a little slower and a bit in the Mastodon lane to begin with until Puciato comes in with the big ballad of a chorus that is, once again, catchy, anthemic and memorable.
Left of Centre is rocky and will get your head nodding but I found it’s a bit more of a grower than some of the others, at least on me. It’s not until they throw in a bit of a change in the time signature at the end that my interest is piqued on the first listen through. Definitely one to go back to again.
The beginning of Inner Calm from Outer Storms feels dark, brooding and menacing with a glimpse of light injected by Puciato mid verse. Cavalera brings the heavy and the others propel that ferocity to drive it home with a brutal finish that would be hyper conducive to one hell of a pit (if we were allowed to partake in them at the moment. Hmph).
Filthy Vagabond keeps up that pace and delivers a thrashy, hardcore influenced track; speed, rhythmic intensity, gang vocals and even the lyrics “don’t tell me of what you think or who I should be” are all hitting the mark here. Instant gratification.
From a Crowded Wound is the longest track on the album at 7:12 minutes long and there are some heavy Alice in Chains vibes during the verses but it doesn’t stay in that vein for too long with the last two minutes being punctuated by distorted and impassioned screams. Being an A.I.C fan, this track hits me, delivers and doesn’t feel drawn out despite its longer running time.
An atmospheric whispered choir haunts the introduction of The Great Purge with Puciato integrating some of the more experimental elements of The Black Queen into this track. Killer be Killed have seemed to hit on a formula of starting out slow and ending with a bang and The Great Purge is no different. This is not to the detriment of the record. Rather, the opposite. If something ain’t broke……
Whilst Comfort from Nothing is a mid-tempo, stomp fest, for the most part (see explanation above), it rolls straight into one hot minute of Animus leaning hard back onto melding elements of hardcore and thrash which injects a sharp spike of energy into the second half of ‘Reluctant Hero’.
Dead Limbs is frenetic at times and offers listeners yet another sing along chorus that is beautifully constructed and is a fantastic example of the band’s musical dexterity. The slower moments pull at my heart strings and this just sounds so good through my headphones, reverberating around the empty space between my ears.
The title track closes the album on a sombre note, which might initially seem strange given the tone of the rest of the record, but it makes this track all the more poignant for it. The vocals in the opening verse remind me something of Sisters of Mercy intermingled with a Johnny Cash sound and I really enjoy the spaciousness of it. The pain in this track is palpable and very relatable.
For a band with three vocalists and a red-hot drummer all coming from such differing successful backgrounds underneath the “metal” umbrella, this really shouldn’t work. In less skilled hands it would become a melee of ego’s and noise pollution but in the hands of Cavalera, Sanders, Puciato and Koller it is a cohesive conglomerate of authentic creativity, passion and emotional honesty born from the unadulterated chemistry between these four men.
‘Reluctant Hero’ is out this Friday November 20 via Nuclear Blast Records
Max Cavalera | Vocals, Guitar
Greg Puciato | Vocals, Guitar
Troy Sanders | Vocals, Bass
Ben Koller | Drums
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With thanks to Nuclear Blast Records