I listened to this record several times before I sat down to write this review and one thought stayed at the top of my mind: Killer Be Killed is a supergroup.
Reluctant Hero is the band’s 2nd full length release and it is very obvious that they have refined their sound, evolved and improved. I think what stands out to me most about this record is the way the 3 distinct metal vocalists with different styles work so well together. This vocal interplay is what truly sets this band apart and defines their sound. It has an almost punk rock quality to it at times, the idea that everyone in the group is a vocalist…
First, you have Greg Puciato – formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Greg is the melody guy. He is the vocalist who is tasked with singing the soaring melodic vocal lines and choruses. Don’t get me wrong, his screaming voice is also used generously but he tends to stand out most on the hooks and melodic points in these songs.
Next you have Troy Sanders, bassist and co-vocalist of Mastodon. Troy also has a melodic tone to his voice but much more gruff and raspy than Puciato. Sanders and Puciato’s voices intertwine quite well on the majority of this record. The track Left of Center is a standout example of this. Sanders handles the verses while Puciato takes the choruses. At points during the song their vocals intertwine perfectly and it makes for a brilliant mix of heavy and melodic.
Last but not least is metal veteran Max Cavalera formerly of Sepultura and currently of Soulfly, The Cavalera Conspiracy. Max provides his familiar death rock vocal scream at just the right points in each song. Adding that 3rd dimension to the bands sound.
The opener Deconstructing Self-Destruction kicks off with the type of chaotic energy I hoped it would. New drummer Ben Koller (of Converge) pounds out an upbeat tribal polyrhythm before the song explodes into pounding kick drum and metal guitar riffs. When Puciato’s melodic vocals finally enter the fray the song is at full speed and seems to lift off the ground like a plane leaving the runway.
The opening riff of Dream Gone Bad is menacing and Troy Sanders’ gruff melodic vocals give it an instantly memorable hook, while Left of Center takes full advantage of the interplay between the three different vocalists.
Inner Calm from Outer Storms is the first track where Puciato really cranks his voice up to 11 and does a lot more screaming. As a result this ends up being one of the heavier tracks on the album with all 3 vocalists bringing the fire… or maybe in the context of “outer storms” – the hurricane is a better metaphor.
Filthy Vagabond is the closest the band gets to hardcore punk. It’s got the first punk rock style, group call out – “Woah ohhhh.” You can also really hear tones of Converge in Koller’s drumming style on this one.
From a Crowded Wound is another epic track with a variety of evolutions. Puciato leads the vocal charge until about halfway through the song when he sings: “There’s nowhere to go…” and passes the mic to Max and Troy who rage until the breakdown.
The Great Purge has an almost Deftones feel to it. There are ethereal and dreamy breakdowns with Puciato’s subdued vocals. The dreaminess fades into huge power chord choruses and soaring melodic vocals cut with Sander’s gruff cadences. The song breaks down and takes a crazy left turn near the end with Max picking up the heavy vocal lines, he and Sanders taking turns shouting lines back and forth.
Comfort From Nothing opens with Troy handling the main vocal and Max cutting up the breakdown before Greg takes over on the chorus. Another brilliant round of vocal change ups that help keep the song moving, interesting and engaging. This interchanging of vocals is again one of the things that really sets the band’s sound apart from a lot of current metal acts.
Animus is a hardcore rager that clocks in at about a minute long. While Dead Limbs has one of the most thrashy riffs on the album. The opening vocal trade off’s are brilliant, a back and forth between Puciato and Cavalera before Sanders comes in as the 3rd voice and takes the harmony into the chorus section.
Reluctant Hero is the final / title track and the most epic of all of them. A very long and sullen build up in the vein of a classic metal track like a Fade to Black before it stomps into a giant metal groove that carries throughout until the end.
As far as heavy albums go Reluctant Hero was definitely one of the highlights of 2020 for me. I was a big fan of their debut and this definitely is step up from that. There is a lot to take in and this is another one that is going to grow on me after multiple listens. Highly recommended and will be on my top 10 of 2020 list!!
Out Friday, Nov. 20th 2020. Pre-Order Download or Stream this album HERE.