Though the term ‘supergroup’ is sometimes used as a dirty word amongst more discerning music fans, the hit ratio of these team ups is generally quite impressive. Despite bringing to mind bloated, indulgent acts like Velvet Revolver, Chickenfoot or Hollywood Vampires, there have been a huge number of more artistically-minded musical team-ups. Shrinebuilder, Boygenius, Nailbomb, Run The Jewels, Mutoid Man, Atoms For Peace, Off! and A Perfect Circle to name just a few have all produced excellent work, and proven that new ground can be broken by successfully combining the sensibilities of their respective contributors.
To add to this list are Killer Be Killed, whose roster features Sepultura’s Max Cavalera, Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, former Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato and Ben Koller of Converge. Given that those acts are all widely loved, respected and seen as high water marks of their genres, it’s no surprise to report that Killer Be Killed’s second full-length is a metallic delight, a winning cohesion of its members’ different strengths and quirks.
Though Reluctant Hero isn’t necessarily as strong as anything produced by Killer Be Killed’s incredible pedigree, this never gets in the way of the album’s sense of enthusiastic élan. Those aforementioned bands have some of the most flawless back catalogues in metal, so any further comparison is needless. Taken as its own beast, Reluctant Hero is a bouncing, muscular guard dog of an album, one that proves easy to love and possesses an immediately tangible streak of snarling confidence.
Given that three-quarters of Killer Be Killed's lineup are vocalists, much of Reluctant Hero’s appeal is reliant on this aspect of its craft. Cavalera, Puciato and Sanders all contribute to the vocal work, with Cavalera the least prominent, though still used especially effectively during the album’s heaviest moments. Sanders puts in a respectable shift, utilising his signature bellow to give weight to the verse sections of the more anthemic tracks like ‘Deconstructing Self-Destruction’ and ‘Left Of Center’. However, vocal-wise, the shining star of the album is Puciato. From the strange, hushed sections of ‘The Great Purge’ to his signature bear-like scream on ‘Filthy Vagabond’, he proves once again that he possesses some of the greatest vocal chords in all of rock music.
Musically, the album sounds exactly as you’d imagine a combination of its four members to sound, yet what’s also impressive is it's nearly impossible to pull apart and discern specific fingerprints, the four inputs just coalesce comfortably into its own creation. The music is rarely surprising or mind-blowing, in the way that other works by its members has been, however the tracks are all engaging, heavy and surprisingly uplifting. Multiple tracks feature lyrics about taking control of your destiny and driving on ahead with defiance, with the music itself often mirroring this attitude, such as the gang vocals of ‘Filthy Vagabond’ or the invigorating, canyon-sized chorus of ‘Dream Gone Bad’.
A meaty, metallic beast of an album, Reluctant Hero will make your beard grow several feet and have you feeling like you could knock out a building. It isn’t particularly bold or fresh, but is nonetheless a joy from start to finish, a constant privilege to be in the company of four masters who just want to entertain the hell out of you.
Reluctant Hero is released November 20th via Nuclear Blast.