Two for two for metal powerhouse Killer Be Killed
As far as the world of supergroups go, let alone ones that play metal, there really isn’t much to write home about. Scarred by high expectations and low effort, they are oftentimes resigned to be relics of the past. Even so, the word supergroup is most definitely applicable to the dynamically bombastic metal group Killer Be Killed, whose creative output matches and almost exceeds the precedents of the members that make it up in the first place.
Like a Vince McMahon meme, Killer Be Killed’s lineup gets better the longer one looks at it; the collaboration is made up of vocalist Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly), bassist Troy Sanders (Mastodon, Thin Lizzy) and now, drummer Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man, All Pigs Must Die), reconvening to release a follow-up to their self-titled debut, Killer Be Killed (2014).
Already coming out with a record just about two months after his debut solo album, Child Solider: Creator of God (2020), Puciato shows no sign of slowing down, especially on the first single and opening track, “Deconstructing Self-Destruction,” which ends with the closing line, “Fire is on my side, I’ll never die.” Likewise, Koller’s extremely powerful and virtuosic drumming almost immediately becomes another main fixation for the track and the album as a whole, matching the frenzied energy of Puciato’s vocals and the distorted guitar/bass that envelop the listener with a wall of sound. Oh yeah, by the way, the production here is clean as hell.
Going into the second single, “Dream Gone Bad,” the energy remains the same but tones down the complexity, structuring around Cavalera’s main guitar riff. The supergroup also adds a fairly catchy chorus (as catchy as a metal band chorus can be) that holds the prospect for heavy metal being somewhat digestible (remember when The Dillinger Escape Plan played on Conan O’Brien?).
Tracks three and four, “Left of Center” and “Inner Calm from Outer Storms,” share similarities in having alternating vocals, as well as an overall good sense of band dynamics and restraint, two things that are sometimes neglected in the world of contemporary metal and hardcore. Puciato, Cavalera and even bassist Troy Sanders trading off harsher vocals comes off as co-dependent and smooth, and again, Koller’s extremely imaginative drumming really shines through. Be sure to be hip to the Deftones/HUM/Failure colors present, which sincerely helps the track listing breathe.
The proceeding song, “Filthy Vagabond,” as well as the track “Comfort from Nothing,” share that thrash-metal style that will definitely make fans of old-school classic metal among the lines of Anthrax, Motorhead and Exodus grin from ear-to-ear. Even “Animus,” the album’s shortest track at barely over a minute, indulges in some sweet, blisteringly fast thrash-core.
However, not all songs are as straightforward, with tracks such as “The Great Purge,” and “Dead Limbs” alternating between sections of extreme heaviness and angelic peacefulness. There is by no means a post-rock outfit or project without even a glimpse of influence from the likes of that sound, but it is undeniable that Killer Be Killed are well and able to construct a song that holds interesting songwriting techniques, such as instrumental dynamic shifts, and improvised, jammy solo sections. Even the song “From a Crowded Wound,” at almost seven minutes in duration, keeps the listener entertained by building up a tranquil tension through vocal melodies, and shattering it all with cold, bitter fury.
This dynamic worship is kept up on the concluding title track “Reluctant Hero,” at first defined by melodic guitar chords and Troy Sanders’s interestingly depressive vocals about appreciating those who are still here and remembering those who are fallen. That mood is usurped by Puciato, who takes over one last time, being a sort of James Brown for metal, as the whole band burns the house down in the final parts of the tune, concluding Killer Be Killed’s sophomore effort.
The cold production and songwriting on Reluctant Hero hold no punches in bringing about an extremely powerful and emotional performance all around, surpassing a whole lot of expectations for what supergroups could and should do, especially with a fantastic sophomore record. The dark, mysteriously haunting album cover certainly helps, too.