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Barely four songs into DVSR’s long-awaited second record, ‘West Technique,’ and you’d be surely forgiven for thinking that the Western Sydney four-piece had been snorting lines of cocaine before writing and tracking this new beast. From opener ‘No Sugar‘ up to ‘TN Tax‘ and beyond, this record holds nothing back. Every maximum velocity beat dished out by drummer Matthew Nekić, every hard and crunchy riff from guitarist Andrew Shtev, every fist-swinging breakdown, and every slick, rapid-fire line that’s spat with pure conviction from Matthew Youkhana’s mouth are super energised. DVSR have honestly never sounded this fired up, this groovy, or this deadly. Listening to ‘West Technique‘ is like main-lining adrenaline before going on a bouncy rap-metal bender. Designed Via Huge Riffs is more like it.
Just like all of their past releases, DVSR find that fantastic happy-medium between rap, hip-hop, nu-metal and metalcore. Somewhat paradoxically, they also know how to keep things simple, bouncy but also just technical enough, too. While this record is clearly less proggy and djenty than their other material, the band still retain their sense of heaviness and impact, never once pulling any of their multiple punches. More than that, the band are always keeping it real: there’s no BS in what they write or choose to speak about here. As the band say, they ain’t about that money, power or fame shit. There’s a chip on their shoulder and they’re done playing nice. In doing so, both sides of their rap-metal aesthetic are well-tailored, meaning none of these new 13 songs feel under-cooked or inconsistent. It’s just go-go-go! It really seems like the three-year gap between this sturdy, robust sophomore full-length and their last release have been well spent. Banger. After. Banger.
The biggest difference between that of ‘West Technique‘ and their stellar self-titled LP (2015) and the solid ‘Therapy‘ EP (2017) is how the album’s second half gets darker with a deeper sense of layered atmosphere. A welcome change of tone and pace that aids the record overall, with attention-grabbing cuts like ‘Redrum.’ (Don’t stress if you like DVSR’s more aggro side. As the short but punchy ‘Rack ’em Up,’ and ‘Respect on the Name,’ with its vinyl-scratching modulation and straight-forward nu-metal sound, both go hard, making Fred Durst and Wes Borland proud.) This latter part of the album also sees Matthew singing a bit more and trying out different vocal styles that give things some added emotion and personality. Nicely contrasting the hard bite to his rapping timbre. Like on ‘TN Tax,’ ‘Devil On My Shoulder‘ (which contains one of the record’s best refrains) and the savage ‘Liberate Me,’ to name but a few highlights. And it works really well! It helps lend a different feel and dynamic to what is mostly a full-on, fast and intensive rap-metal LP, and the songs are all better for it. Songs like ‘Black Magic‘ and ‘Respect On The Name‘ show off the best vocal production Matthew has likely ever received on a DVSR release.
Another killer aspect of DSVR’s latest is it’s two wicked guest features. The bravado and braggadocios nature of ‘What’s The Proof?‘ – a personal favourite banger on album filled with such mental tunes – is fittingly wrapped up by Matthew’s razor-sharp, cutting-loose lyrics and vocals alongside a roaring appearance by Emmure’s Frankie Palmeri, all with a healthy dose of ego and self-awareness. Ripping the mic from 1:20 for the heaviest and grooviest part of the entire track, Frankie brings in those low monstrous growls that he nails in Emmure, before sliding comfortably into that half-sung, half-spoken rapping he loves to doll out on their records like last month’s excellent ‘Hindsight‘ LP. It’s solid stuff! Emmure aren’t a band that do guest spots, but if they ever were to, I’d love to see that honour go to Mr. Youkhana.
The second collab moment comes in the form of Thy Art Is Murder’s CJ McMahon tearing up the record’s cut-throat second song, ‘Bloodlust.’ A Sydney team-up that’s been long over-due. Truly, this is a phenomenal example of how to do a guest vocal appearance right in this day and age. CJ enters the ring as a new challenger at 1:41 as the track enters its second stage, bringing his identifiable fire-breathing death metal vocals in fiercely. Right after this, the song flips back between Matthew and the Thy Art frontman, as they trade-off tough vocal blows for a terrific back-and-forth section, both complimenting one another’s distinct styles. It’s an incredibly hyped-up experience and is just sheer fun, first and foremost. However, more importantly, it shows real chemistry between the two frontmen. (Another great example of this would be ‘Eavesdropper‘ by Stray From The Path, featuring Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari.) If you’re a band in hardcore, nu-metal, or metalcore, and you want to get a well-known vocalist on your track, then take detailed notes on this bad boy about how to craft such an engaging, memorable piece.
In the most bluntest and simplest terms, I cannot stress enough just how fucking dope ‘West Technique‘ is. If this doesn’t position DVSR higher on the map and making them a bigger blip on the larger heavy music community’s radar, then I have no clue what the hell will. However, it is not perfect and there are a couple of little nitpicks that I do have with it.
The first is how much of the songwriting and the structure to most of these 13 songs can be kinda repetitive. This manifest in different ways. Whether it’s the strong use of those hypnotic nu-metal guitar licks that bands like Korn built a career off (‘Liberate Me,’ ‘Homesick‘), the use of various EQ filter passes to start up some songs (‘Bloodlust,’TN Tax‘), relying a little too much on fade outs to end tracks (‘TN Tax,’ ‘Liberate Me‘), or certain songs adhering to what is more or less the same guitar work template of “heavily muted chugs over repeated dissonant lines” (‘No Sugar,’ ‘Off Tap‘). This is all slightly exacerbated by the album’s run-time of 45-minutes, with certain passages running for a tad longer than necessary. Though this is nothing close to a deal-breaker, and to be fair, DVSR do manage repetition better than most bands of their ilk, but it was something I felt on all of my listens to ‘West Technique.’
Other than that, while I do like the blood-thirsty closer ‘Leave and Die Slowly‘ by itself – the only sole hip-hop track of this new Baker’s dozen, with Matthew going in for the kill with his delivery – it doesn’t really feel like a proper finale for the album in context. I’m rather surprised that there wasn’t more songs like it spread out across this record’s length. Well, save for the electro snares and hi-hats and sample breaks on the gnarly ‘Black Magic‘ just a few songs earlier in the track-listing. (Think of something similar to ‘Ready For War.’) Doing so would have also potentially alleviated that repetition I spoke of just above. Now, DVSR’s sound is ‘rap-metal,’ not ‘rap and metal.’ Perhaps that’s just me splitting hairs, but them separating the two sounds a little wider in the future would probably create better musical and sonic diversity of their already air-tight sound. Plus, I believe that Matthew and the band would absolutely crush it in doing a full-blown drill-rap song. Maybe something to consider next time around?
Let me be crystal clear: none of these 13 songs are remotely bad or even average. This is some of the finest work DVSR have ever put out, with material rivaling the heights of ‘Bad Company, ‘Unconscious,’ and ‘Shutdown….’ It’s one of my favourite Australian releases of 2020! Yet there are some microscopic negatives that I do have with the record that I could not in good conscious ignore, even in a review as favourable and as positive as this.
If you’ve read any of my recent coverage surrounding the singles of ‘West Technique,’ then this review should have come as no surprise. It easily matches and supersedes ‘Therapy,’ whilst falling just short of their fantastic debut LP. Outside of things getting a tad bit repetitive at times in the songwriting and structural pacing, and not necessarily ending on the strongest of finales, ‘West Technique’ gets so much of this contemporary rap-metal sound right. Hyped-up, punchy, consistent, bouncy, riff-filled, and off-kilter in more ways than one, with the Aussie group dropping some of their best songs yet as a musical unit. DVSR have always been one of the best acts to come out of this style’s resurgence in popularity over the last seven years, and their near-perfect track-record continues with LP #2. If there was ever a band that was releasing awesome, white-hot material that stood in stark disproportion to their lack of larger success popularity, it’s DVSR. So make sure you are not one of those fools missing out when ‘West Technique’ hits.
01. No Sugar
02. Bloodlust (ft. CJ McMahon)
03. Off Tap
04. TN Tax
05. Devil on My Shoulder
06. What’s the Proof? (Ft. Frankie Palmeri)
07. Liberate Me
09. Rack ‘em Up
10. Black Magic
11. Respect on the Name
13. Leave and Die Slowly
‘West Technique’ is out Friday, August 7th: