Heading into 2010, it appeared that the lasting legacy of The Devil Wears Prada was likely to be that of a band capitalizing on scene trends. While the young band’s breakouts, 2007’s Plagues and 2009’s With Roots Above and Branches Below, were enjoyable enough as neon-colored metalcore-by-the-numbers, they lacked the depth and sincerity of predecessors such as Underoath or Haste the Day.
Identifiable by their long, goofy song titles, bro-core breakdowns, and the distinctly indecipherable growl of Mike Hranica, The Devil Wears Prada seemed content to ride the Rise-core sweepstakes to Billboard success. Then came the Zombie EP – a shocking, unexpected leap forward and the defining release from one of the scene’s flagship bands.
Even today, it’s hard to believe the transition from Roots to Zombie. One minute into opener “Escape”, the band shreds away any preconceived notions of their sonic capabilities with riffs that would make Slayer proud. The Zombie EP is so punishing, so unrelenting, so technically sound that it’s hard to find a true competitor in the past decade of metalcore.
Perhaps even more unbelievable is that the man who produced the glittery debut from Attack Attack! also helmed the boards for Zombie. Joey Sturgis has become a household name for cranking out albums by the dozen glossed with his signature sound, but Zombie is a beast all its own.
Sturgis no doubt played a role in adding to the EP’s atmosphere, strewn with eerie creaks and groans, thundering rainstorms, and a haunting public service address. On Zombie, tinkling shotgun shells and roaring chainsaws join the mix as additional instruments, and the album flows through its five songs effortlessly, each track telling another chapter of the inevitably deadly tale.
Creating a horror-filled zombie fest of a concept album made sense as a cash grab in 2010, but the Zombie EP refuses accessibility. Not only are its thunderous breakdowns specialized as thinking man’s metalcore, lyrical content that could have been laughable is instead deeply troubling and distressing. Hranica roars, “The incurable bring us our punishment / Today’s destruction can only be measured in biblical proportions” on “Revive” before Jeremy DePoyster sings the haunting final refrain over a simple, evocative keyboard line: “We cannot restore, we cannot recover / All is lost in the flood of the risen dead”.
The Zombie EP allowed The Devil Wears Prada to turn an important corner in their career, leading to the heavy, post-hardcore explorations on Dead Throne and 8:18 and a newfound respect in the metal scene. Even so, those crushing guitars and drums still resound in conversations about the band, overshadowing solid follow-up work and hard earned admiration. Recent lineup losses have resulted in further whisperings – has The Devil Wears Prada passed their prime?
The latest announcement of the band’s upcoming Space EP has raised a few eyebrows. A journey through the expanse and terror of outer space proves to be a possible return to glory if the band is able to harness the urgency that made Zombie such a success. The early release of single “Supernova” has certainly raised expectations, and a recent five-year celebratory tour for Zombie added fuel to the fire.
Whatever the case may be, The Devil Wears Prada have more than earned their stripes in their decade-long existence, capped by an unexpected bloodbath in the Zombie EP.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.