One thing a listener can pick up by listening to Ohio metalcore elite, The Devil Wears Prada, is that their music isn’t made to fly to the top of the active rock charts. They don’t write songs to appeal to an audience that listens for nothing more than a sing-a-long No, their brand of heavy music is just that – heavy, but not just in its aggression.
Since fifth full-length, 8:18, TDWP have locked on to a moody atmosphere, one that is reminiscent of sitting at home on an overcast day watching the rain hit your window from inside your room. This depressive aura has made for a uniquely crushing brand of metalcore, one that is just as pit-igniting as it likely to make its listeners feel the urge to lock on to the nearest box of tissues. Well, before you make your way to your local CVS to stock up on Kleenex, hear me out – Transit Blues, the sixth studio album by Prada, is their most identifiable work to-date; A record so shaded in that it would enhance the listening experience to walk to a deserted coffee shop on a rainy day just to put your earbuds in over a cup of joe.
Not least worth mentioning is the maturation the band have underwent since the ascension 2011’s Dead Throne initiated. This could all be traced back to Zombie EP’s immense dramatic weight as well, but even further to as far back as Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord‘s sporadic instrumental breaks. There’s no denying this group has always dabbled in the progressive in unexpected ways, especially for a band to come out of the Midwest’s ‘core explosion in the late 2010’s. 8:18 was the real shocker, though – Strictly electronic down-tempo ballads, hints of Deftones influence and even hardcore punk roots. Adam D. really whipped Prada into shape via his production duties, but it’s not all due to his signature masterwork. There are great musicians at work in this band.
What both separates and joins Transit Blues to Prada’s most recent releases is its immediacy of dropping anchor. “Praise Poison” and “Daughter” both have their moments of up-tempo beats and speeds, but most of their run-times are consisted of odd time signatures and slanted rhythms that lunge forward backed by atmospheric and melancholy electronics. This creates quite a huge soundscape, a bigger scope than the band has ever been heard in. “Daughter” does include a short chorus, but it, like in most Prada songs, doesn’t reprise. This probably appears to be such a small detail to point out, but it actually causes the chorus to feel that much more powerful and even mournful.
Certain songs on the record do actually feature reprising choruses and absolutely none of them break the mood. These aren’t happy exclamations, they’re recollected laments. Despite that, these songs are still quite listenable and absolutely engaging to the ear. Because of this especially, it must be praised that The Devil Wears Prada are masters of songwriting and chemistry. Every note, beat, sample and structure flows perfectly, no idea ever interrupting the tone of what is being presented. Jeremy Depoyster and Mike Hranica are a dynamic duo, emotive expressors of pain and remorse. Mike pens the ever-ambiguous lyricism and Jeremy surely trades off with him as if he is another form of Mike’s voice. The understanding between the two is notable.
Of the songs with reprised choruses, “Worldwide” is definitely a highlight of the record. Jeremy begins the song with a beautiful verse and comes back in for the best and most emphasized chorus on the entire record. This is undoubtedly by design, as this record’s focus isn’t on choruses. When they do feature however, they are wonderful. “The Condition” is another noteworthy track to include this style of song structuring, but most of the time Jeremy remains barely audible in the background harmonizing behind Mike’s lines for emphasis. This is a decision that ultimately only adds more depth to the songs and the overall mood, creating a ghost effect to the ears and it’s quite an addictive quality. The title track represents this perfectly.
Anyone who thought Mike was losing his ability to powerfully scream is proven ridiculously wrong through his performance this time around. While this is the least range we’ve heard him portray, it’s also the most emotion, depth and power he’s ever exposed as a vocalist. A great example is “Worldwide” as opposed to “Lock & Load”. I can’t help but feel both tracks are somewhat related, the former being about a love for travelling, the other acting as a cease fire plead to the entire world. In these troubled times, it’s difficult to disbelieve in a fear for being a touring band or a tourist with all the violence and tragedy so currently prevalent in the world. These two songs end up hitting hard, especially “Lock & Load”, due to that very thought. There’s even a sequel to “Home For Grave” from 8:18 and if you know the origins of that song, you’ll know the continuation isn’t a light-hearted subject.
Transit Blues isn’t a record of candy-soaked hooks over an extraneous amount of breakdowns that are punctuated with death metal gurgles. The Devil Wears Prada have come a long way. Saying this record is far off from metalcore is wrong. Saying it is more than metalcore is not. With a song like “To The Key of Evergreen” Prada are on the cusps of the prog genre while still inflecting every riff with their personality. This is certainly an album full of solid groove and the riffs are both the most substantial and destructive of the band’s career. Transit Blues is closer to the Space EP than it is anything prior, though Dead Throne‘s riffing and punctual breakdowns are alive and well here. The most praiseworthy aspects of Prada, their emotion and their rhythm section, are better than ever. And while this isn’t an ambitious record in the same way Zombie and Space were, it is a dramatic leap forward with more inspired musical elements, compositions and lyrical topics (Fallout of religious reform is gonna be a fun topic of discussion after hearing any of the band’s early work) than ever before. Whether or not Transit Blues will provide new life to The Devil Wears Prada is a given. Despite line-up scares and a dwindling scene, they’re re-defining ‘second wind’, expanding their genre and should be the proudest band to bear the metalcore tag in 2016. Could we even call this post-metalcore?