Once you’ve reached the summit, what’s left to explore? With the release of the Zombie EP in 2010 and Dead Throne in 2011, The Devil Wears Prada shed what was left of the trendy neon-core label that was attached to the band, becoming a full-fledged metal powerhouse, sharing the stage with the likes of Slayer and Slipknot. It was a worthy transition for a hardworking band that had clearly pushed themselves to the top of the modern metalcore heap.
In recent years, the band appeared to be attempting to shift the narrative once again with the experimental and industrial 8:18 and last year’s trippy and aptly titled Space EP. While those releases still eclipsed the offerings of many of their peers, they lacked the bite that had turned The Devil Wears Prada from pedestrian to prodigious just a few short years ago.
Maybe a short walk in the wilderness was all that the band needed. Transit Blues finds The Devil Wears Prada returning to form with a vengeance.
Album opener “Praise Poison” encapsulates everything that had been missing within the track’s first 30 seconds. Rattling drumsticks give way to a vicious guitar riff from Jeremy DePoyster as Mike Hranica makes his opening statement of, “I heard the sound, the shout proclaimed / Now I’m here to praise, praise poison”.
It’s the kind of moment that takes your breath away – a moment most bands spend a career trying to capture. The Devil Wears Prada are familiar with this kind of gravity inducing hysteria, displaying it previously on tracks like “Danger: Wildman” and “Mammoth”. Hearing it happen once more is like being introduced to the band again for the first time.
Oddly, Transit Blues seems to draw its influence and passion from the mundane. Throughout the album, Hranica vocalizes his discontent with monotony, whether it be while endlessly traveling on the road or while struggling to find inspiration in everyday life. Hearing this kind of struggle displayed with such force and might sends a wave of sobering terror and awe rushing toward you. It’s the kind of discontent only the best metal bands can instill.
On songs like “Daughter” and “Lock & Load”, the band displays a knack for sludgy guitar tones and paced aggression to counter the moments that rattle your chest. On “Worldwide” the band rediscovers the melodic sensibilities that always added a unique depth to their music. DePoyster is no longer called on to interrupt with a clean response to Hranica’s cries – here the two work together to create something much more compelling. The duo’s cooperative lines of, “It’s nostalgic and quiet but louder than silence / I want to get lost in you, Tokyo” sound like the next logical step for the genre as a whole.
Likewise, “The Condition” takes advantage of the band’s many strengths, allowing the quiet moments to amplify the fury to come. DePoyster’s gentle opening lines coupled with a keyboard set the stage for Hranica’s bellows of, “Every light is red tonight / Every day, a useless fight / Burdened by obligation, this life will be named ‘The Condition’”. It’s a complex track that uses patience and gentle interludes to create unease – something the band attempted but failed to use to effect on 8:18.
The most discussed track on Transit Blues will certainly be “To the Key of Evergreen”, a song that harkens back to the band’s older days with blistering guitars, dreamy synthesizers and an ambient interlude that channels the band’s deepest Underoath influences. Hranica even reaches deep within his frayed vocal chords to unleash a few of his once familiar deep roars.
Those looking to complain will point to tracks like “Home For Grave Pt. II” and “Flyover States”, which find The Devil Wears Prada dimming the lights for the atmospheric feel that pervaded their recent offerings and find the band delivering more delicately and despondently. In the flow of the record, these serve as small eyes in a greater storm.
Transit Blues may not quite match the madness of Zombie or the wrath of Dead Throne, but it’s certainly a statement of the band’s intent and a welcome return to noise. If the dull racket of boredom is what reignited the fire, we should all feel grateful for a few short uneventful years.
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.