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.

Review: The Devil Wears Prada – Space EP

In the five years since The Devil Wears Prada released their career-defining Zombie EP, the band has been on an auditory journey to find the next step in metalcore evolution. The band teamed with Adam Dutkiewicz for the explosive Dead Throne in 2011 before adding Matt Goldman to the mix for 8:18 in 2013.

While the former took another step toward perfecting the modern metalcore sound, 8:18’s experimentation seemed to alienate a portion of the band’s core fan base, even as it found the group on the brink of a necessary sonic shift. Now, having returned to their original home at Rise Records, The Devil Wears Prada find themselves at a crossroads. Do they return to their tried and true roots or forge ahead in a new direction.

The answer is, a little of both.

The-Devil-Wears-Prada-Space

You can buy the Space EP on iTunes.

The Space EP makes sense for the band on every conceptual level, even before you press play. After the 20 minute record is complete, it’s clear, once again, that The Devil Wears Prada are one of the most unique, innovative and talented heavy bands in the scene.

What made the Zombie EP so spectacular, aside from the band’s sudden ability to unleash a devastating wall of pulverizing guitar riffs, was their knack for creating an apocalyptic environment that felt authentic. What could have been the cheesiest release of the decade turned out to be one of the most crushing and terrifying.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a fluke. Whereas the Zombie EP captured the palpable chaos of the living dead run amok by doubling down on dual riffs and blistering drums, the Space EP expands, allowing for long notes and spacey electronics in deep, intentional breaths. The opening chords and patient drums during the blastoff of “Planet A” sound of a completely different band.

This time around, The Devil Wears Prada is much less concerned with pummeling you six feet underground and more determined to lift you off of it. Zombie found vocalist Mike Hranica shredding his throats with the roars of the undead, but in Space, his voice pleads into the void. On “Planet A” he wrestles with the dark side of discovery, crying, “Mankind searched the universe / Curiosity can be a curse”.

While Hranica is as impressive as he’s been in years, it’s Jeremy DePoyster who steals the show on many of the tracks. Through the years, DePoyster has often been reserved for one-liners in pivotal moments, but on Space, he sings alongside Hranica’s screams and is given huge, haunting choruses. His massive refrain of “Where will you go? / Where will you be? / When you forever sleep? / When you leave me? / If we could just say here / Lose track of time / I would be just fine / In a galactic sea” on “Supernova” is one of the EP’s defining moments.

The closest the band comes to Zombie is a track titled “Alien” wherein the Hranica describes the anatomy of massive, demonic extraterrestrial beings closing in on planet earth. Clocking in at under three minutes, the track features multiple signature breakdowns that cease to relent until Hranica’s final scream of “We are done for!”

Space’s best track is “Moongod”, a surprisingly delicate and atmospheric song that sounds reminiscent of “Chicago” on Dead Throne, but with much more personality. The chorus trade-off between Hranica and DePoyster crescendos into a soaring finish. “Celestial Mechanics” takes a page out of Underoath’s book with a short synth-driven interlude seeking to capture the complexity of space and time, but the track ends far too quickly.

The tale ends with “Asteroid”, which finds Hranica wrestling with impending doom as he cries, “Say goodbye one last time, as the Earth will be no more / All aflame and destroyed, all aflame and destroyed / It’s funny how we once fought / It’s funny how we didn’t care / Consider what we could have been”. Whether this is a fictional tale to end a concept record or a call to consider the ramifications of our choices before it’s too late is up to you to decide.

Although I found myself wishing for more (Space is shorter than Zombie, despite having an additional track), it’s difficult to fault the band for brevity in this context. The Space EP is another memorable experience and solidifies The Devil Wears Prada as one of the most creative metalcore bands in recent memory. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another five years for their next saga.

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.