The Devil Wears Prada – ‘The Act’

By Dave Stewart

The Devil Wears Prada are a band that are completely unafraid of change. Since their humble beginnings as a core part of the screamo movement, they’ve slowly and gracefully transformed their sound into that of a metalcore giant, seamlessly transitioning from one era to the next.

From their breakthrough album ‘Dear Love, A Beautiful Discord’ to their metalcore smash ‘With Roots Above And Branches Below’, their dark and gloomy ‘Zombie’ EP to the passionate and sinister ‘Transit Blues’ – their expansive back catalogue is full of experiments and alterations, yet all manage to retain a tone that is unmistakably theirs. Their newest record ‘The Act’ is another golden example of that, leaning harder on redefinition than they ever have before. This is The Devil Wears Prada like you’ve never heard them before.

This record shows the band at both its darkest and its lightest, showcasing both in a way that only they could deliver. First single ‘Lines Of Your Hands’ displayed a familiar sounding version of the band, driving through moody verses that erupt into memorable and punchy choruses. The softer and more delicate moments are what makes this stand out though, the pain and desperation in front man Michael Hranica’s voice hitting home harder than ever. This emotional intensity is something that surges through the entire record, adding an even thicker layer to their already dense formula.

The emotive power on display is overwhelming at times, encasing you in a space so tight it’s inescapable. ‘Chemical’ is a masterclass in suspense building, gradually adding layer after layer until they’ve assembled an indestructible complex. ‘Numb’ treads a similar path but instead opts to add a chunk of layers at the same time in a vigourous tsunami, the remnants of which can still be found crashing around in the haunting ‘Diamond Lost’. If you think this hits hard, though, wait until you hear what the addition of menacing guitars and gloomy atmosphere does.

To hear a devastatingly moody haymaker, constantly taking swings for your jaw as it hangs low in admiration, check out ‘The Thread’ which could take the crown for the heaviest song that they’ve ever made. If an ever growing, synth-laden, fast-paced riff-fest is more your cup of tea, album opener ‘Switchblade’ will have you running in circles, fists pumping enthusiastically in the air and then forcefully at every object around you as it comes to its end. ‘Spiderhead’ is one of their more traditional sounding songs on this record, feeling like it could have slotted onto any of their last few records. It’s the only track that sounds this “old school” though, and that’s why this record shines so brightly. The diversity on show is so rich, yet it still manages to all fit together. The record is a complex puzzle, but none of the pieces are missing.

Every song has its own vibe, its own story to tell, the music acting like a chameleon in order to best force that story outwards. ’Even Though’ is a metalcore delight, ‘Wave of Youth’ is a catchy yet ominously creeping beast, ‘Isn’t It Strange’ is a venomous and electronically driven gem. There’s even the sombre, hypnotic and tortured cries of ‘Please Say No’, possibly the biggest departure from their screamo past. There’s so much innovation here that serves as new territory for the band, but it’s all performed in a way that makes it sound like mastery.

This is the by far most sophisticated and mature album of their career. They’ve been edging towards a record like this for a long time, but ‘The Act’ is a definitive statement that they are not the band they used to be. They are a band that is continuously striving for growth, and this is a record that shows their biggest spurt in years. They still possess a raw intensity and underlying unpredictability just as they always have, but they have a firmer grip on the reins that retain those traits, loosening them exactly when they mean to. It’s not afraid to show its teeth, but also isn’t incapable of putting them away.

‘The Act’ isn’t a heavy record. Nor is it a rock record, a prog record, a metalcore record or a screamo record. In its own way, it’s all of those things and everything in between, tugging gently at your heartstrings one moment and then violently slashing at them the next. It’s an enormous leap forwards for The Devil Wears Prada, and a bold challenge to every one of their peers – how far are you willing to go to reinvent yourselves?

DAVE STEWART

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