Killer Be Killed
Metal supergroup Killer Be Killed emerged in the early 2010s with a roster that includes Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato, Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera, Mastodon bassist Troy Sanders, and former Mars Volta drummer Dave Elitch. Their aggressive yet melodic blend of sludgy metal and hardcore punk, combined with Elitch's expansive drumming skills (he was jazz-trained and had played with everyone from Miley Cyrus to M83), made them a big hit with fans of the bandmembers' parent groups. The band released their searing eponymous debut in 2014, with their sophomore effort, Reluctant Hero, arriving in 2020. Puciato and Cavalera had met at an L.A. benefit gig for the late Deftones bassist Chi Cheng. Having worked together on a Soulfly song ("Rise of the Fallen"), they had become friends and had often talked about recording an album together in the vein of Cavalera's earlier Nailbomb project with Fudge Tunnel's Alex Newport, but it was not until 2011 that they finally got together to make a demo. Excited with the results, Puciato approached his longtime friends Elitch and Sanders about playing on the record, and Killer Be Killed was born. Having chosen a name, they hammered out material in several lengthy rehearsal studio jam sessions during 2013 before entering the studio to record with producer Josh Wilbur. Signing to Nuclear Blast, the group released their debut album, Killer Be Killed, in May 2014. Combining the raw hardcore and thrash influences of Soulfly with the progressive sludge and doom tendencies of Mastodon, the record was not only popular with their existing fans but also attracted acclaim from other sectors of the metal world and beyond. The bandmembers spent the next few years tending to their myriad other projects, but they returned in 2020 with their second album, the punishing Reluctant Hero.
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 20, 2020 | Nuclear Blast
It's hard to write about Killer Be Killed without marvelling at their personnel. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Greg Puciato (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera (Soulfly, ex-Sepultura), vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and newly appointed drummer Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man, All Pigs Must Die)—who replaced The Mars Volta's Dave Elitch, KBK emerged in 2014 with an impressive self-titled debut. Most fans thought that each member's loaded schedule would nix the possibility of a follow-up, so Reluctant Hero is both a surprise and a surprisingly great return. Although KBK's debut was praised for balancing each musician's personalities without sounding cluttered or lopsided, the songwriting on Reluctant Hero feels even more poised and dialed into everyone's strengths. The record's melodic standout, "Dream Gone Bad," features a majestic hook from Sanders that could fill a stadium, while Cavalera's iconic grunts keep the track firmly planted in the world of heavy metal. That's one of the albums greatest feats: as massively catchy and sing-able many of these choruses are, and as clean as the production can be, there's always a chunky riff or a tumbling drum fill that makes them feel properly heavy—which is a line that many bands fail to toe. That said, there are some unabashedly whipping moments as well. The second half of "Inner Calm from Outer Storms" builds into a thrashy gallop that transitions nicely into the '90s punk-influenced "Filthy Vagabond," which features "woah-oh'" gang vocals that sound straight out of a Pennywise record. "From A Crowded Wound" begins as a lurching chugger that stretches upward like a classic Mastodon song, laced with tasteful solos and Cavalera's guttural yells. Although Puciato and Cavalera both have some amazing parts on here, Sanders' vocals are the album's guiding light, bringing to mind mid-career Mastodon material that predates their recent swerve into hard rock. For as tuneful and sleek as it is, Reluctant Hero is a badass metal album from a crew that no headbanger should be taking for granted. © Eli Enis/Qobuz