Review: “White Devil” by Gift Giver

The third full length album from Detroit Deathcore crew Gift Giver, “White Devil” hit the streets back in October 2016. Surrounded by controversy following the exit of their bassist Dave Denard prior to recording the impact of which is heard on “Phobic” and “Scumbag Pt. 3” which hit up back to back in the first half of the album. You can listen to these songs yourself and read media coverage from the time to make up your own mind as to what went down. We’re here to talk about the music so on to the review.

Let’s make no mistake. This is a big style shift for Gift Giver. Having gone from Nu-Metal fused Deathcore with “Daddy Issues” to an increase in Nu-Metal sound on “Sh*tlife”, Justin Johnson has switched to more rap and Nu-Metal styled cleans using the uncleans to provide a bounce factor in the new music. Gift Giver wear their influences on their sleeves with the KoRn-isms and Limp Bizkit vibes on some of the songs but also other Detroit scene regulars like Kid Rock. That’s not to say that Gift Giver don’t have plenty of ideas of their own. This is a real throw back album soaked in nostalgia for 1999.

The album starts with the title track “White Devil” which is always a bold move and as expected it’s a style setter for the majority of the album. Guitars from Ram Choi and Nick Miller are more intricate than you would expect from the majority of Nu-Metal bands but they are a highlight in subtlety and nuance that appears with multiple listens. The chorus of “White Devil, White Trash, Heavy Metal” will certainly be a sing-a-long at live shows. The band then change tone with “Roach King” which is a darker gangster rap style song about smoking blunts. The fast paced vocal delivery makes the song alongside a catchy hook and the song is about as far away from any of the bands previous output as it gets. “Phobic” then dials the music back into a much heavier nu-metal sound. Utilising an answerphone message from former bassist Dave Denard’s step father to intro and outro the song in classic 1999-2001 fashion, the band declare their innocence to the reported incident while taking the energy and pushing it back. “Scumbag Pt. 3” then continues this as “The White Devil’s been summoned” delivering the bands side of the incident. It’s a powerful and energetic song that delivers the edge that sees spontaneous circle pits at live shows. “Vote for Trump” then takes a political turn but not in the way that perhaps the song title suggests. Instead it’s an anti-establishment themed song that takes the view that elections are fixed and changing the face at the top changes nothing below. It’s tempo changes and nuances are again a joy that the Nu-Metal era didn’t really have for the majority of bands. “Pillow Talkin'” then takes an atmospheric shift into darker territory. Justin Johnson’s story telling abilities are at the fore as this tale of a former lover unwinds. It’s very much a tale that looks back on the past and the relationship as an addiction and draws you in with a tasty hook.

“Toke Up” then ups the pace and shifts away from the dark atmospherics with a song about touring. It’s a party song that will go down well in any live arena because it’s an after show call for the fans. It’s high energy and bounce-ability on the musical side perhaps give it that little bit extra that the lyrical content lacks. “Cruising The Chevy” is something like a remake of Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin'”, a song that takes the concept and changes it to fit the bands outlook. The guitars are dialled back for this one but it still has enough to give it a push and even if the lyrics are laughable it will have the listener singing along. “Jokal” then switches things up once more with the condemnation of older local bands who play one-off shows, want to charge crazy fees and behave about as far from humble as it gets. The Korn-isms are rich on this one and the sentiment will resonate with a lot of smaller bands who are looking to put together headlining or co-headlining tour packages and looking for local support to open up the shows. Once again, it’s a demonstration of how to wrap up your thoughts, feelings and frustrations into a package and push it out. However the song is about knows who they are, there is no need to do any form of name dropping.

“Dirty $$$” has a Jonathan Davis style scat towards the end of the song that really makes it. It’s a slow build from start to a crushing conclusion that shows real musicianship. It’s a tale of bands having to work minimum wage jobs between tours or to get an album off the ground that again will resonate with all of those who have been in the same position but also with anyone who finds themselves on hard times. Working at the back end of beyond for long hours at next to nothing is not a way to live. “Stoner Love” takes the outside looking in memory of “Pillow Talkin'” and dives into the relationship itself as if it was going on in the moment. Referencing the relationship to a drug habit that has become and addition and trying to work through an exit strategy. “Glory H(())le” is more of a trippy Nine Inch Nails darkwave song than anything else and is out of sync with the rest of the album. It’s slow build and dark atmosphere is a continuation of some of the other ideas on the album but doesn’t work as well. Japanese bonus track and Kid Rock cover “Bawitdaba” is perhaps as much an influence pointer as a homage to the bands home town of Detroit. It’s the bands own take on the song and they make it there own rather than carbon copying it which is something to be appreciated. The issue is it’s not as good as the bands previously released cover of Papa Roach‘s “Last Resort” which would have been a better fit for the album as a whole. [8.5/10]

Track listing

1. White Devil
2. Roach King
3. Phobic
4. Scumbag Pt. 3
5. Vote For Trump
6. Pillow Talkin’
7. Toke Up
8. Crusin’ The Chevy
9. Jokal
10. Dirty $$$
11. Stoner Love
12. Glory H(())LE
13. Bawitdaba (Kid Rock Cover)

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