Last year’s self-titled debut album from metal supergroup Kill Devil Hill was a solid, if unremarkable, affair that offered little in the way of innovation but brought together the various band members’ musical histories into a tight little package of modern metal. Featuring the talents of former Pantera/Down bassist Rex Brown, ex-Black Sabbath/Dio drummer Vinnie Appice, Pissing Razors (remember them?) frontman Dewey Bragg and guitarist Mark Zavon, “Kill Devil Hill” sat somewhere between the traditional metal of their drummer’s previous projects and the slightly more aggressive approach favoured by their bassist and singer, and second album “Revolution Rise” isn’t too far removed from that approach, although a little bit more groove is apparent on this outing.
Immediately sounding more confident, opening track ‘No Way Out’ neatly blends the traditional and the modern with a crystal-clear production making Appice’s snare drum sound like snapping bones as Mark Zavon builds an immense riff around the rumbling rhythms. To compound the Black Sabbath connection, singer Dewey Bragg’s voice is reminiscent of Tony Martin’s post-Sabbath work with Dario Mollo, being both able to hold a note and add some vocal grit. However, there are moments where Bragg’s voice veers into Jon Bon Jovi territory, the ballad ‘Life Goes On’ being an obvious example.
Nevertheless, the stompy ‘Crown of Thorns’ sees the band whip up a storm of riffs that sees the guitar and bass working together to make a huge wall of sound that benefits from Bragg’s melodic delivery and creates a nice hook. By contrast, the Sabbath-y grind of ‘Wake Up the Dead’ could really do with a Tony Martin or Ronnie James Dio-type vocal soar to lift it out of the realms of mediocrity.
It’s an odd album, as for every ‘Crown of Thorns’ or ‘Endless Static’ that seems to bring some momentum there’s a ‘Wake Up the Dead’ that brings the energy levels down again. In terms of carving out an identity for the band, “Revolution Rise” does gel a lot more musically than the debut album, and the musicianship in the band is beyond question, but they’re not quite there yet when it comes to making an album that fully reflects their collective talents.