The Devil Wears Prada

With Roots Above and Branches Below

Written by: BL on 28/04/2009 02:06:36

Dayton, Ohio based metalcore/synth-screamo band The Devil Wears Prada are perhaps one of the most well known bands in the genre and around the hardcore scene. With two full lengths already under their belt, eaten up by emo kids in tight jeans everywhere, their latest offering "With Roots Above and Branches Below" has finally been unleashed amidst a sea of hype and expectation from the scene. Fear not though if you think this is another Bring Me The Haircut lookalike posse, that part at the very least is not true.

I only have a brief familiarity with the discography of this band, but my immediate reaction to listening to this new album is that from a technical standpoint, boy are the instruments a lot tighter. At times, when listening to the previous album "Plagues", I felt there was a lack of tightness in some of the more chaotic moments, or when the tempo shot up during the fast riff passages, but on this album it has been tracked to perfection. The drums by Daniel Willians in particular feel almost mechanical, the machine gun double bass pedals threatening to pummel my ears into jelly with such constant use (think Jordan from As I Lay Dying, following the rhythm guitars religiously). The very familiar tone of producer Joey Sturgis is ever present, and while a produced sound can give a clearer sound, sometimes you lose that raw edge, to the guitars in particular (which I somewhat liked in the previous albums). The other issue is that I've heard a lot of Joey Sturgis records and they all seem to sound very similar tone-wise (most annoying are non-existant bass guitar parts).

The songs themselves seem a bit more accessible this time around. They flow more smoothly and there are less random stop-start moments and more sensible, if simpler riffing. This means safe territory and I feel that some of the more interesting ideas from "Plagues" have been switched in favour of brighter melodies and the now typical post-hardcore, spaced out lead guitar, or the incredibly well tred ground of At The Gates staccato riffing. Elsewhere the synth/keyboard/piano parts from James Baney do well to light up some otherwise bland moments, in particular his piano melodies, which are subtle yet surprisingly strong in their effect. The harsh vocals of front man Mike Hranica, who at times sounded a little underwhelming in the past, are a bit better this time round. And speaking of vocals, Jeremy DePoyster's clean vocals are also more polished now and a bit stronger too. While they might appear too frequently for those who dislike crooning in metalcore, some of the choruses are catchy as hell (no matter how UnderOATH-esque they are), prime examples being the ones in "I Hate Buffering" and "Ben Has A Kid".

If you're not into metalcore or screamo though, you wouldn't be here. Everything you either love or hate about those genres is present (though there is a bizarre lack of pitched horror chords I might add). One facet fans of this band are known to harp on about are their breakdowns, and you'll find them aplenty here. While we're not really talking Parkway Drive style brootality, or the technicality of bands like August Burns Red, they are still so very frequent (more than one per song), and for me at least this is a bit of a hit and miss affair. In some songs such as "Big Wiggly Style" they sound pretty good with some delightful piano melodies flying about in the background (tasty), but other times they just seem almost pointless and identical to the one(s) before.

The album works very well in places, and fails to take a step out in others. When it works, all the elements come together neatly and you have a kickass song, while in others you've been there, done that, had the photo and bought the hoodie. However, it's still better than an average effort, as there are some cracking tracks throughout (spread out with above average sandwich filler to complement) and to their credit, this was the first album by these guys I actually listened to in its entirety and remembered most of the songs - and was able to go back over quite quickly. Fans of the band should appreciate it for the most part (if they're not arguing over their favourite album) since it's their most mature record to date, and if you like your metalcore/screamo, then this is well worth checking out.

Download: I Hate Buffering, Big Wiggly Style, Ben Has A Kid
For the fans of: Underoath, Still Remains, It Dies Today
Listen: Myspace

Release date 05.05.2009
Ferret Music

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