As I’ve gotten older, I’ve managed to maintain a certain amount of curiosity about how my taste and appreciation for various things might change with age. Heavy music was a staple of my early adolescence, to the point where it actually defined who I was and how I was viewed by others. From clothing to hairstyle, attitude to language, I admit to the perceived negative effects of aggressive, loud, and conceptually angry music, as I’m sure most would.
It goes without saying (even though I’m going to say it): I’m not the person I was 20 years ago. Things have changed. Life happened.
For some, that means getting angrier. Finding (or creating) and holding onto the things that hurt most. But I have something else to admit: heavy music was never about that for me. I had nothing to be angry about. No machine of which to rage against. Sure, I went through my “teen angst” phase, and sure, it was necessary. But, no matter how much I may have been perceived as angry, no matter how much that was someone else’s definition of who I was, heavy music - as aggressive and loud as it was - was actually quite therapeutic. It was cathartic, in a way. I could channel whatever was upsetting me into these songs that I could scream along to, and that was that. That was my outburst.
And I think that the very best in heavy music - be it hardcore, metal, metalcore, post-harcore, whatever variation you subscribe to - should do that. It should be about release, personal or otherwise.
The Devil Wears Prada, I think, get that. They started out when they were young. What did they really have to be so angry about? They signed to a label that has since thrived off of the perceived angst of an entire generation. It’s not ideal, but certainly not the worst thing to happen to a young band. They’ve endured hardship - we all have - and they’ve channeled that into several incredibly popular albums and EP’s. Their most recent effort, the EP Space, is another example of taking something negative - in this case, fear - and framing it in a way that is bizarrely, but appropriately accessible.
And their albums - most, if not all of them, actually - all play on those same emotions so distinctly and succinctly recorded within these six new tracks. Fear, anger, uncertainty - they’re all strong thematic elements of everything The Devil Wears Prada records, and Space EP is no exception. Previously, it had best been encapsulated by their intriguing and downright fantastic EP, Zombie, which chronicled a, you guessed it, zombie outbreak. It’s release around the time The Walking Dead was getting started was a stroke of genius, and made for not just a great seasonal listen, but a tremendous introduction to the band (for those of us that may have missed the boat initially).
Though they’ve had to regroup after a significant lineup change, as a listener and (admittedly on again-off again) fan, it’s hard to spot the differences, and it’s certainly difficult, maybe impossible, to say that they’re really missing anything. Production is as strong as ever, the heavy to soft, loud to quiet, angry to angelic dynamic the band is known for is still the backbone of their songwriting. The keyboards add an always welcome quality of sound that many other bands of their pedigree strive for, yet never quite achieve. Vocalist Mike Hranica continues to be as dynamic as ever - frankly, he’s one of my favorite vocalists in heavy music - and has crafted a tale of tragedy and exploration, isolation, fear, and maybe, in the end, hope. They don’t seem to have missed a beat musically, and again, I’m hard-pressed to say they’re really suffering from any kind of major degradation in songwriting. The EP flows incredibly well, In fact, they’re very much at the top of their game - sonically and creatively.
Hranica, it turns out, has proven himself to be a rather prolific writer outside of his duties within TDWP. Having just released his third published work, Three Dots & The Guilt Machine is a collection of writing featuring poems and prose, lyrical ideas and other musings, it’s clear he has quite a bit on his mind. I am, personally, always intrigued in the way a writer’s mind works, and it’s rare to find that kind of insight readily available. Especially when it provides a different kind of insight when compared to their musical endeavors.
Many bands would have crumbled under the weight of replacing two founding members. Either immediately, or down the road, it’s never an easy transition. The Devil Wears Prada, though, have turned what could have been a death blow into something that breathed a bit of new life into the band. If their Space EP is any indication, they’re a band who might really just be getting started.
The Devil Wears Prada returns to Cincinnati, at Bogart’s, on the “Apollo X Tour,” to co-headline with Motionless In White, along with support from Upon a Burning Body, The Word Alive, and The Color Morale. They land this Thursday, October 29. Check out their new EP, Space, out now on Rise Records.