I really enjoyed the first Killer Be Killed album. I thought it to feature the best of each member, all of whom I had been a fan of for quite some time. Greg Puciato and Max Cavalera in particular, and to this day I don’t believe either one of those dudes is capable of anything but excellence. The band’s rhythm section (Troy Sanders and Ben Koller on bass and drums, respectively) I knew less about at the time, but was familiar enough with Mastodon and Converge to be able to appreciate their contributions. In fact, that first Killer Be Killed album helped me respect the work Sanders does in Mastodon quite a bit more. So, like many, I was eager to hear new material from the supergroup.
I’m happy to report, the follow-up record does not disappoint in the slightest. Within seconds, Reluctant Hero shouts loudly and clearly that Killer Be Killed did not return to play any fucking games.
Opening track “Deconstructing Self-Destruction” is classic Cavalera riff-wise, as are “From A Crowded Wound,” “Comfort From Nothing,” and “Dead Limbs.” Elements of everything from Sepultura to Nailbomb to Cavalera Conspiracy are splattered all throughout the album, and though this makes me incredibly happy, I can’t say it’s really all that surprising. I suppose when Max Cavalera is the topic of discussion, the only element of dismay would come from riffage that was somehow spineless or delicate, which we all know is just plain crazy talk.
Killer Be Killed’s greatest strength is in the vocal department, which isn’t any more surprising than Cavalera’s guitar insanity, considering how powerful the vocals are on the first album. However, as unavoidable as it may have been, the debut sounded like a supergroup. Little bits of Soulfly running around making babies with little bits of Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, by the way. Those are some damn fine looking babies! What I’m trying to say is that “Reluctant Hero” sounds less like three dudes taking turns at the mic, and more like a single, solid, well rounded and polished band effort.
The best example of this, I believe, is “Inner Calm from Outer Storms,” a song so well constructed it damn near brings a tear to the eye. For starters, while there are clearly sections where Puciato, Sanders, and Cavalera take the lead separately, they do so in a remarkably complimentary manner. Koller and Sanders’ opening rhythm and groove certainly assists in creating the collective atmosphere, which quite frankly doesn’t sound much like any of the group’s other projects at all. Very much its own thing. Self contained. It’s a journey through the greatest sounds each member is capable of making, and that’s not even considering the lyrics!
Puciato: “Are you made from the moonlight – to return to the sea – stay awake
for your whole life – only curse is to sleep”
Sanders: “Wired in – to the night sky
Course is fine to lead the way”
There we have the romantic uncertainty common for many Dillinger Escape Plan tunes mixed with the mechanical organics of Mastodon. The two mesh a bit more over the next two verses, eventually coming together in a surprisingly beautiful harmony. Then, as the pace increases and the hammer falls…
Cavalera: “Enthroned – The realm above – Collision of the universe
Cosmic lunacy – it’ll take your soul/collect my fee
Trash hole from beyond – Every fear will burn”
Max, as Max so often does, opens the flood gates to Armageddon, and the other men are happy to jump right in there with him. It is a relentlessly crushing three minutes and fifty two seconds of Metal bliss! It is perfectly placed as the fourth track, because it paves the way for the remaining seven to stand on their own as Killer Be Killed tunes. Additionally, it helps the listener reconsider the band entirely by deconstructing the “supergroup” mentality most of us came in with at the beginning of this fantastic journey back in 2014.
Now, if you are one of the few who aren’t familiar with the work these musicians have done in the past, I’m afraid it’s no easy task to explain exactly what type of Metal Killer Be Killed makes. It’s some sort of Progressive Hardcore Melodic Doom Groove Thrash. Let us read that again together, shall we? Progressive/Hardcore/Melodic/Doom/Groove/Thrash. Well, fuck. If that wasn’t a thing before, it sure as shit is now! It is, as my dear friend The Great Mackintosh would say, MAGNIFICENT! And no, there never can be too much magnificence.
“Reluctant Hero” is more than just an exceptional sophomore effort, it is a monument to the glory of pure Heavy Metal. Eleven songs, each of which deliver multiple gut punches in just under an hour’s time. If this album doesn’t spawn another, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll be shocked. Time will tell, of course, but in the meantime it isn’t gonna hurt anybody to repeatedly listen to the two we’ve already got.
Rating – 4.5/5