The Devil Wears Prada

Dead Throne

Written by: BL on 19/01/2012 04:05:33

The Devil Wears Prada's last EP from 2010 "Zombie" was an interesting departure from their long line of established, rather typical synth-driven metalcore releases. With their latest album "Dead Throne", for the first time in their entire discography the band have opted not to record with their long time producer of all their other material Joey Sturgis, and instead turn to Killswitch Engage guitarist and producer extraordinaire Adam Dutkiewicz with Joey left to work with only the keyboards and synths. And frankly it's about time for change as Adam D's production is like a breath of fresh air, injecting the band's sound with renewed urgency, a more raw finish and helping to bring out a new level of maturity not heard before. "Dead Throne" is without a doubt the pinnacle thus far for The Devil Wears Prada's career in many ways, and while it suffers from a few staple faults of the genre as it seems impossible otherwise to nowadays and doesn't quite reach any delirious highs, really puts the band back at the forefront of the their game.

It's easy to think that, especially if you've never been an avid listener of The Devil Wears Prada, that their sound perhaps hasn't changed all that much fundamentally. While the band have said that "Dead Throne" was supposed to be heavier than their last full length "With Roots Above And Branches Below" (since they said they weren't looking to match the sound of their "Zombie" EP), the truth of it is that it's very slightly, if barely heavier at all. The actual differences between the two albums reside in a noticeable shift in their songwriting approach, and I just have the slight feeling that Adam D might have had a hand in it. No longer are The Devil Wears Prada looking to keep up with all the latest trends of the music genre, but instead they have adopted an almost Killswitch Engage-esque approach of just writing solid riff-driven metalcore songs that have flowing hooks, and aggressive verses that aren't a bunch of banal breakdowns over and over. The electronics and samples feel a little bit more theatrical this time round too, as soon as opener "Dead Throne" gets under way, we have some awe-inspiring strings that set the stage for the crashing, thick guitars to kick things up a notch. However they don't disappear after the intro as a one off, they serve as a consistent element to the song throughout which makes it a short but great way to start the album off. More subtle changes can be heard in the way the band utilise their traditional ingredients of mixing lead vocalist Mike Hranica's screams with guitarist/clean singer Jeremy DePoyster's more soft, high pitched singing vocals. The vocals are far more dynamic now and switch up on a more need-by-need basis instead of being totally obvious where screams should go and where singing should go, for example some songs like the opener and "R.i.t.", there are no clean vocals at all. Overall, the vocals end up more realistic and less overproduced too thanks to the production which really benefits their overall sound.

Despite not being as heavy as their "Zombie" EP, the heavy aspects of "Dead Throne" feel very rewarding. Part of this has to do with how the heaviness is conveyed through more visceral but still varied guitar work now instead of just chug patterns. Overall there's a sense of progression from part to part especially to the more melodic sections. Like mentioned already, "With Roots..." had most of the tricks of modern metalcore at the time, but didn't always connect the pieces together to feel wholesome all the time. This aspect is improved on "Dead Throne", most notably on songs like "Mammoth", "My Questions" and particularly on my favourites "Born To Lose" and "Constance". There's a lot of natural sounding change between driving melodic guitars, big soaring choruses and the brazen, angry, sometimes still breakdown driven harder sections -the latter of the bunch I just mentioned there particularly impressive with a great guest performance from As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis as well. The guitar work for the most part won't impress you with anything more technical like other recent metalcore releases like August Burns Red or Oh, Sleeper, but once again for the first time in a while for The Devil Wears Prada, very little actually feels rehashed . Elsewhere the drum work is notably more prominent and complex, there are still the great kick patterns as always, but there's also more snare and cymbal patterns that manage to seem above average without becoming out of place thanks to the superb mixing (like on "Pretenders" for example). Other things that stood out were two more unusual songs in the selection: "Kansas" is an all-instrumental but has a fair amount of character and life with haunting lead guitars, big thundering and anthemic rhythms, and some interesting vocal samples. The other is "Chicago" which tries to be a slow burning emotional release, with Mike screaming over a crescendoing guitar track, with plenty of brooding ambience that eventually boils over into a full blown attack. While neither really captivates as much as I would have hoped, if all else it's nice to see the band try to experiment more with themselves instead of sticking to just solely what they are good at and familar with ("Holdfast" being an excellent example and fitting as the closing song).

"Dead Throne" manages to be one of the most solid and formidable releases on the metalcore front for 2011 and is strong from start to finish. And while it may not end up being the best with a lack of true invention/reinvention, is certainly a definite release to get if you like metalcore and perhaps metal in general. It definitely sounds like those kids who released "Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord" all those years ago have finally grown up into a mature unit ready to take on the world at large. The Devil Wears Prada have never sounded so serious and consistent with their sound until "Dead Throne", having shed a fair amount of the bloated gimmicks (though not all) of their younger scene brethren. It would be interesting to see if from here, The Devil Wears Prada decide to continue exploring further options beyond the confines of metalcore. Whatever they choose to do, I think I will be all ears.

8

Download: Born To Lose, Chicago, Constance, Holdfast
For the fans of: Blessthefall, Killswitch Engage, Oh, Sleeper
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.09.2011
Ferret Records

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