Sunday, 21 September 2014

Death Valley Driver - Carnivore's Oath EP (Review)

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 7/10/2014
Label: Diminished Fifth Records

‘Canivore’s Oath’ CD/DD track listing:

1). Coven Of Ash
2). Drowning in Silver
3). Carnivore's Oath
4). Hellhounds / Gatekeepers


Ever have your door kicked in by five thugs collecting on a debt? Hopefully you haven’t but the sound of Death Valley Driver would be the soundtrack.

These Charlottetown, PEI, bruisers crank a sound that is a love letter to heavy metal. The five-piece mixes the classic hard rock of KISS and AC/DC, the sludge of Black Sabbath and the urgency of Motorhead into a Molotov cocktail of amps, gravelly vocals and swampy rhythms.

With two full-length releases and an EP under their belt, several songs licensed for movies and television, the ECMA-winning band isn’t letting their foot off the gas.

Their debut album "Choke The River” has gotten rave reviews and had charted nationally on several Loud charts on university radio, peaking at number 3. Their song "Sleeping All December" is being used as the entrance music for Ring of Honor tag team The Briscoes. The album was also nominated for an East Coast Music Award and was the winner of Music PEI’s Loud Recording of the year.

Their follow-up, “Graveyard Dead” took home the 2014 East Coast Music Award’s Loud Recording of the year, as well as being nominated for rock album of the year by Music PEI. It was featured in renowned music publications Revolver Magazine and Exclaim! It also charted at #6 for the top 20 loud albums of the year by Earshot.

Their latest EP “Carnivore’s Oath was produced by Paper Lions guitarist Colin Buchanan and mastered by Juno nominee Dan Weston (City & Colour, Classified, The Reason). This batch of songs shows the band continue its growth with a larger focus on melody and songwriting, while retaining their heavy roots.

The five-piece has shared the stage with Metallica, Coheed & Cambria, Seether, 3 Inches of Blood, Goatwhore, Morbid Angel, Cryptopsy, August Burns Red, Lagwagon, Protest The Hero, Misery Index, Obscura and many others.

The Band:

Dan Hodgson | Vocals
Ryan P. Gallant | Drums
Nick Doucette | Guitar
Ray Blacquire | Guitar
Adam Praught | Bass


Built on a solid foundation of hook-laden rock n’ sludge, Death Valley Driver has delivered a strong, easy to listen to EP in ‘Carnivore’s Oath’. While some of the material might feel familiar if you’re a fan of Down, Clutch or Corrosion of Conformity; Death Valley Driver have a certain personality that keeps them safe from being labelled as imitators. They stand truly and firmly on their own merit.

Opening track “Coven of Ash” kicks things off with a meaty groove worthy of Down’s ‘Nola’ or latter day Melvins. It’s so goddamned catchy that you’re grateful when it gets repeated several times throughout the song. The song flows together so well it basically begs for repeated listens. Vocalist Dan Hodgson quickly establishes himself as an important element to what makes this band succeed as much as it does. A big chunk of why he adds so much is that he always has new tricks up his sleeve. His delivery is ultra-decipherable, brimming with charisma, and varied enough that it’s hard to pigeonhole him into any one category.

“Drowning in Silver” begins with the EP’s only real misstep. The drums for the first forty seconds are at Lars Ulrich levels of plain, to the detriment of the whole section. A more lively kick pattern would have really helped drive the riff home a bit harder but as it is; the guitar groove is kind of left dangling by the empty spaces yearning for the kick to add some extra heft to those notes. The song is saved by a catchy chorus and headbangable bridge section, but that verse riff is my only real complaint about the whole EP. It’s a shame because Ryan P. Gallant’s performance and choices elsewhere on the EP are all really strong, but then again, one suspect arrangement choice on an EP is a damned good ratio.

Things get back on track quickly with the fantastic title track. The central riff is the kind of swaggering, swinging blues hammer that made me fall in love with EyeHateGod and ‘Take as Needed for Pain’ in particular. While it’s something you've probably heard a variation of before, stuff like this isn't often performed this well. It’s worth pointing out here that the production on ‘Carnivore’s Oath’ fits it perfectly. A thinner production would have hurt this material considerably and the job Colin Buchanan does in producing the EP should be commended. On the other hand, the material on ‘Carnivore’s Oath’ is strong enough to stand on its own, the top-notch production is just icing on the cake. That is to say, this is worth going out of your way to hear if you’re into this style.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

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