I don't see too many people proclaiming that DevilDriver is the best band whatever metal subgenre has to offer, but they appear to be gaining momentum. Beast sees them evolving into a more determined, intense unit, focusing more on thrash elements like speed, technicality (on both riffs and solos), and double bass. I can still hear their modern melodic influences, but the sound is heavier overall on this cd. I liked their last two albums, but something kept them at the level of good-but-not-great. While I don't yet regard Beast as great, so far it sounds closer to it than Pray For Villains, certainly. That album had some great songs on it, but too many that sounded like uninspired filler for me to completely get into. I think Beast will have a lot more staying power for me.
Beast opens sending a message, as the first two tracks showcase the heavier emphasis on speed and technicality. The next few songs are more in the mid-paced, groove vein, which I have mixed feelings about. One criticism I've seen about DevilDriver is that they can sometimes sound a bit generic, or a little too like Pantera. In my opinion, those moments happen most often on the mid-paced tracks. The faster songs, like the first two and Blur, are when this band sounds the most inventive; I think they offer some interesting, sometimes unconventional riffs and drum patterns on the faster stuff. Even some of the slower material has that quality, but when they get mid-paced, the songs almost get boring, with riffs and beats you feel like you've heard from a million different bands. So, musically, I think Beast shows the most promise yet of anything from DevilDriver, with probably their most formidable collection of songs, but still with some room for improvement.
A few comments about Dez; I've been a fan of his since I saw that one band he used to be in back before they released their first album. His heavy vocals have always had a unique quality that metal vocalists need to sustain a long-term career. He definitely brings the intensity on this album, like he has on the others from DevilDriver. I have to say, though, that his one-dimensional style can get monotonous. I'm not in favor of hearing him use Coal Chamber-style clean vocals, but I know he has more dynamics as a vocalist than he shows in DevilDriver. I wouldn't mind hearing him mix up his delivery, as long as it fit the tone of the songs. But I am happy that, despite having done clean vocals in the past, Dez hasn't resorted to mainstream metalcore cheese, which he has the voice to pull off. Thank you, Dez, for keeping it metal!
I like quite a few other bands in the thrash/groove genre more than DevilDriver, but most of them are from a previous era, like Testament, Overkill, or Machine Head. But when compared to metal bands from the 2000's, I don't know of any that I like as much. While I still wouldn't quite give this band an A, I think they've improved from a B to a B+ with the new cd. The skill level seems to be up, and I'd love to see them build on this album's momentum and step into the metal elite.