Absolutely zero fucks given.
“As artists, their number one goal is to elicit a strong reaction from the audience, good, bad and everything in between.”
“It is truly better to be loved or hated than to be ignored. Gift Giver will not be ignored.”
Those are two quotes lifted from Gift Giver's bio, which is found on the main page of the group's website. Now, Gift Giver are a relatively small band by all accounts, but if they play their cards right and some big name media and industry names pick up on their scent, we could be looking at the one of the next hotly talked about names in heavy music. (Oh Christ, I've suddenly become a Noisey writer, please send help and any medication ASAP.)
But no, seriously, if Gift Giver’s name does sound at all familiar, that's because you may have seen their name pop up on Lamb Goat last year when now ex-bassist Troy Wilson left the band, and upon his exit called out the group, labeling them as homophobes. Which the band denied and then ripped in on Wilson's own personal issues - ouch. But I feel that's actually a good place to jump off from as the band’s new record, ‘White Devil’, channels all of the vitriol and hatred that’s been thrown their way lately and manifests it all into a vicious musical creation.
As what I found most surprising about this 12-track release was that the Detroit band’s metalcore/nu-metal aesthetic actually felt… fresh. Considering the current heavy music landscape, I think that this is quite the feat, what with the vast over saturation of this particular sound. This is accomplished through a lack of overly relying on obnoxious breakdowns, ridiculously low guitar riffs, and other such conventions. Now, all of those elements exist here in various moments, no doubt, but they're used tastefully and there's a strong, consistent flow at work here. Plus, there is some actual sonic variety to these songs!
For instance, the grimy and groovy hip-hop 'Roach King' takes matters in a far more electronic direction very early on (think like Hacktivist's 'Rotten'). Whereas 'Pillow Talkin'' is a dark, twisted tale of love gone wrong and moving on from a bad relationship that one would really hesitate to label as 'hardcore' or 'metalcore'. However, two songs that really fit those heavy taglines are the short but aggressive title track and single 'Phobic'. Elsewhere, ‘Stoner Love’ is a dark, jagged rager and perhaps one of the best songs on offer, and another prime pick is when the band channels their inner Korn on ‘Jokal’; tight grooves, vocal scatting and all. Gift Giver also gets all kinds of edgy and antagonistic with ‘Vote For Trump', where the vocals and guitar riffs echo the approach that Attila's taken with their recent albums. And the pumping yet somewhat cringe-worthy anthem of 'Crusin' The Chevy' is this band's answer to the bouncy, classic Limp Bizkit track, 'Rollin (Air Blade Vehicle)'.
Stepping away from the actual songs and into their actual production, this album's sonics are all tightly wound. The bass here - both the actual bass and the synthesised bass - is punchy and churns through your ears tightly. The drums are well-mixed and groovy, the guitar riffs are both heavy and crunchy and the vocals - screamed or rapped - are vehement in their delivery and sharply unflinching in their content. Of course, there is also plenty of dark, edgy lead guitar work, electronic drum beats, and plenty of vocal layers, all wrapped up in a solid mix that helps these songs stand tall and strong. Furthermore, a lot of these tracks don't go past the three-minute mark, which is all for the better I must say.
Now, the main star of the show here is the band's vocalist, Justin Johnson (man, what a fucking name), and he has a vocal style that's a mix between the emotional catharsis of Jonathan Davis, the whiny angst of Fred Durst, and the almost threatening tone of King 810’s David Gunn. Likewise, the lyrical content, while wholly explicit and graphic, is actually quite varied. Shocking, I know.
‘Toke Up’ is dedicated to all the fans that have stuck by them thus far; ‘Jokal’ takes aim at the band’s feelings towards the wider music industry and the shitty mentalities it generates and perpetuates; ‘White Devil’ deals with the shit-talking, hate, and real life threats the group has received; ‘Vote For Trump’ is about media overexposure of the US presidential election and on not simply giving a fuck; 'Pillow Talkin'' is a no-holds-barred diss on romantic partners from years gone by; and 'Glory H(())Le' is, apart from being one of the worst titled songs of 2016, an immensely dark, dynamic and brooding track that I initially thought would've gone the way of Emmure's 'Hitomi's Shinobi'. Turns out, I was kinda close - it did have a few sex audio samples littered across its run time. But I was wrong about my initial perception of the track as after just two listens, it quickly became the best song on 'White Devil' and it concludes the record near-perfectly. It's this sound, this moment in the album's finale, that I really think was what Cane Hill was aiming for with 'Smile', but that band sadly fell short of the mark by a good mile or two.
However, while Gift Giver's instrumentation and performances are all tight and indeed competent, the lyrics are going to be a BIG point of contention for many listeners. And man, they're so fucking ridiculous at times that many laughs - both genuine and cringy, head-shaking ones - were had, I assure you. Here are a few of my favourite picks. (Note: save for the last two, these lyrics are all from different songs).
"We don't fucking care if you fuck dudes or chicks
And we don't fucking care if you turned your clit to a dick.
Not a hypocrite. I admit I say the word "faggot"
but I'm not like the fucks who voted against gay marriage"
"At this point I might as well
Have that stupid bitch kim davis on the track.
Call her chad, dress her up like a dad
While I fuck her in the ass getting off
while she calls me a fag."
"We're all gonna die on television. Watching it all end in high definition.
World war 3, it's happening. I give so little'a fuck, that I would vote for Trump."
"So many people still riding my dick.
Stop rocking jerseys fucking quit.
Fired our manager and agent fucking sick.
Thought you heard the last of gift giver?
Nah, it was just the tip."
"Nobody gives a fuck, unless they getting a cut.
You want 10%? Lick 10% of my nut."
Yet despite all of those absurd lyrics… I couldn't pull myself away from this record. Sure, the lyrics are dumb, they're purposefully controversial and are indeed worthy of cringe, but I just kept on listening to this album. My foot kept tapping and my head kept on nodding along and I let the repeat count go up and up. You know, Louie Armstrong once supposedly said that there are only two types of music in the world; good music and bad music. And that if you can tap your foot to it and nod your head to it, then it’s good music. Well, shit, by that measurement, Gift Giver is one solid band and 'White Devil' is one damned good album.
This has easily been one of the biggest musical surprises of 2016 for me.
If you're looking for some heavy, turn your brain off musical fun, with some phat grooves, filthy vocals, and some truly nasty riffs, Gift Giver is the band for you. 'White Devil' is definitely going to antagonise the old-guard fans of metal with its lyrics, and I'm sure that plenty will jump on the hate bandwagon, but I really think there's a lot to like here. There's something so... bizarrely interesting about this band and their brand of crass metalcore/nu-metal. I admit that early on I thought that I would hate 'White Devil' to no end and file it away next to Skillet's and I Prevail's latest records (oh god, I'm getting flashbacks) but this one has found a high perch on my short list for one the of better records for 2016.
So with an album like this, I think that that earlier statement of "Gift Giver will not be ignored" rings very true.
'White Devil' is out now, yo. Get it here, chuch. Also, this is by far one of the longest fucking reviews I've done in a long while. Sorry not sorry.