Published Nov 16, 2020While solid if taken at face value, the debut Killer Be Killed album definitely watered down the distinctive characteristics of each member of the band. Considering these guys' respective repertoires, It was inevitable that some longtime fans would find the debut's prog-ish groove metal disappointing. If sophomore release Reluctant Hero receives the same treatment, it's unfair, since this is much better.
The past six years have been kind to this foursome's chemistry. Opener "Deconstructing Self-Destruction" gives each member room to flex, with better riffs and arrangements than anything on the debut. Still, the band lend gravitate towards hookiness more than extremity, made more obvious with "Dream Gone Bad." There's a Chaos A.D.-style breakdown here and a math-y switch up there, but melodies usually prevail over confrontation.
KBK highlight Puciato as one of modern music's most gifted vocalists. Sanders and Cavalera largely stick to their guns, but it's anyone's guess where Puciato will go next during cuts like "Left of Center." His high-reaching melodies work wonders amid that song's dazzling guitar lines, while his feral scream coincides with the punk adrenaline of "Filthy Vagabond." From Misfits-style "woah" vocals to a chaotic guitar solo, the collective guns throttle without stepping on each other's toes.
Koller's drumming packs tact and nuance into an accessible framework, like the tom flams and double-time fills he works into the slow-burning "Inner Calm from Outer Storms." Sanders and Puciat trade some moody verses before Cavalera's signature growl completes the bridge's thrashing two-step. The song's mid-tempo structure carries over to "From a Crowded Wound" and "The Great Purge," offering increased heaviness and more freedom to jam over the infectious motifs.
Still, these songs aren't about to win over the underground. Only the one-minute assault of "Animus" could satisfy those who wish Sepultura still sounded like Beneath the Remains, but honestly, it takes a very closed mind to write off Reluctant Hero.
Deep cuts like "Comfort from Nothing" and "Dead Limbs" offer some of KBK's most interesting songwriting to date. Both succeed in their dynamic, expressionist explorations, but those detours give way to unpredictable transitions, punishing riffs and bludgeoning breakdowns. Yes, the closing ballad title track isn't as heavy as Sepultura, as progressive as Mastodon or as chaotic as Converge or Dillinger, but it's a compelling display of these four elevating poppy ideas with explosive, multilayered musicality and hard-hitting emotion.
Though it's not pushing boundaries, Reluctant Hero proves metal can be catchy without being stupid. If melodic groove metal needs a hero in 2020, it's Killer Be Killed. (Nuclear Blast)