The Devil Wears Prada Turn Back the Clock for Anniversary Tour

The Devil Wears Prada have been a part of my life for over a decade, first as a kind of scene-core guilty pleasure and later as a band that expanded my heavy music palate. Attending the 10th anniversary tour for the band’s third studio album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, serves as a reminder of how far the band has evolved and how much I still enjoy those cheesy early moments.

I remember hearing Mike Hranica’s shriek of, “I know a ghost!” followed by the br00talist of breakdowns while attending Warped Tour in 2009, thinking this was what heavy music was supposed to sound like. In a matter of two years, the band’s Zombie EP and Dead Throne would make tracks from With Roots Above sound silly. Even so, revisiting the album leading up to the show and witnessing the anniversary tour itself reminded me how much fun these songs really are.

Fit for a King

In support of the tour, Prada brought along noise rockers ’68, featuring Josh Scogin, formerly of The Chariot and Norma Jean, and Fit For a King, another metalcore act currently five albums deep into a run with Solid State Records, the new home for The Devil Wears Prada. Both set the table well for a night of guttural screams and bass-heavy breakdowns.

After a five song introduction, which includes the band’s recent cover of Julien Baker’s “Sour Breath”, Prada kicks into Roots. What I’m first struck by is how fun it is to sing along to these songs, particularly guitarist/clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster’s parts. Midway through opening track “Sassafras”, the crowd joins as a choir for Depoyster’s lines of, “What should we ask for? Who should we turn to / If all we know is burning bridges?” It’s a wonderful blast from the past and a delightful preview of what’s in store.

The Devil Wears Prada

Indeed, the crowd is invested and involved, especially for tracks like “Dez Moines”, “Danger: Wildman”, and even the band’s softest track, “Louder Than Thunder”. Each of the album’s 11 tracks features at least one moment that brings the crowd alive – a clear signal of what makes an album special 10 years after its release.

While it’s true that the band would never write parts like the goofy keyboard interlude on “Big Wiggly Style” or default to such cringeworthy song titles post-2009, With Roots Above and Branches Below still serves as a time capsule, marking the moment when The Devil Wears Prada stood atop the scene. Their later work would explore the boundaries of modern metalcore before investigating more ambient and experimental rock sounds, pushing them beyond the Warped Tour crowd and placing them amongst new peers.

It’s almost hard to believe that the band I remember discovering as a group of hungry teenagers is now six full length albums and two EPs deep into their career. While I’ll never hesitate to dive into whatever The Devil Wears Prada releases, I’m grateful for a night allowing me to travel back to an album I had largely written off, forgetting that sometimes it’s okay to head bang to a silly breakdown with a smile on your face.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

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Reflecting On: The Devil Wears Prada – Plagues

The Devil Wears Prada are the last band I can remember discovering in a magazine. For most of my youth, I was exposed to new music through a variety of print publications – Alternative Press, Spin, HM and many others. As a communications major and journalism nerd, the fading medium remained valuable to me even as new and exciting forms of online media began to blossom.

You can buy Plagues on iTunes.

On a particular summer day in 2007, I flipped through the new issue of Alternative Press and landed on one of those one-page features dedicated to up-and-coming bands. The RIYL section mentioned Underoath and I remember the write-up talking about how the band formed after the members were collectively inspired by The Changing of Times. I laid down the magazine, booted up my dinosaur of a laptop and navigated to the band’s MySpace page where I streamed “Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?” Soon after, I purchased a copy of Plagues at Best Buy.

I share this story because it’s the last time such a series of events would unfold in my life. It makes me miss the excitement that younger version of myself felt in those moments of discovery. It also reminds me how much fun I had in the fall of 2007 listening to that album.

The Devil Wears Prada were my first peek into the new wave of metalcore bands that had sprouted in the wake of my favorite band’s influence. While there are certainly a number of similarities between Underoath and The Devil Wears Prada, Prada were anything but a carbon copy – they were soon to be the flagship band for a burgeoning sub-genre.

Of course, growing pains were part of the process. It’s easy to poke holes in Plagues – the horror movie synthesizers, vocalist Mike Hranica’s spastic screeches and growls, the cheesy, br00tal breakdowns. Nevertheless, early signs of technical gifts were evident, particularly in Chris Rubey and Jeremy DePoyster’s guitar work and Daniel Williams’ drumming. Additionally, Joey Sturgis’ production style found throughout the album would soon spread like wildfire, making him the most sought after producer in the scene.

While Plagues would be far from the band’s best work (hand that designation to Dead Throne or the Zombie EP), it laid the groundwork for a sub-cultural shift across the Warped Tour scene and helped make heavy music decidedly cool. Not into having your bones rattled from bass drops and drop-D tuning? Just wait until DePoyster’s croon pierces through the speakers. The fleeting moments of melody across Plagues are impeccably placed and impossible to ignore. To this day, no one has been able to achieve that balance quite like The Devil Wears Prada.

Personally, Plagues offered a welcome soundtrack to a period of transition in my life. Having just moved halfway across the country to a new city with no acquaintances, Plagues proved to be a valuable friend and a fitting backdrop to my own wrestlings with faith. Behind the bright neon t-shirts and goofy song titles was a surprising amount of depth for such a young band. Plagues speaks to the fleeting nature of our existence and the danger of letting it slip away.

That commitment to conviction would prove to be a cornerstone that set The Devil Wears Prada apart from many of their contemporaries. Soon, the band’s intense focus on perfecting their craft would gain them acceptance in the greater metal community, allowing them to share the stage with heralded acts like Killswitch Engage, Slayer and Slipknot. In hindsight, Plagues was much more than a fleeting stab at cultural cache – it was an early chapter of a band with a lot more to prove.

I guess it makes sense to me that a band I discovered through my old school methods would become a torchbearer for a new generation of bands in the scene. It also makes sense that The Devil Wears Prada wouldn’t be content with the ground explored on their early work, which was certainly powerful in its own right. For the band with the silly name and cool haircuts, the best was yet to come.

Still, I can’t help but reflect fondly on those days, flipping through Alternative Press and with Plagues blasting in the background, ushering in a new phase of my own musical journey.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Review: The Devil Wears Prada – Transit Blues

The Devil Wears Prada - Chicago June, 2015

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.

You can buy Transit Blues on iTunes.

You can buy Transit Blues on iTunes.

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.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Five Years Later: The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie EP

The-Devil-Wears-Prada-zombie

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.

You can purchase the Zombie EP on iTunes.

You can purchase the Zombie EP on iTunes.

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_hauckKiel 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.