Review Summary: Brand New returns after 3 years of silence with an album that is truly stunning.
"The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me" is an emotional roller-coaster of self-reflection, self-hate, and bitter honesty. Never have I personally connected to an album like this. Never. It's not perfect, but it is sure close, with equal parts emo-angst and Radiohead-esque ambience, Brand New is a truly ingenious music powerhouse. I only hope their insecurity that is shown in their music does not put them in the gutter, because they do not deserve it in the least.
First off let me get one thing straight. There is not a single lyric on the entire album that falls flat. Not one. Every single song is a piece of poetic gold, beautiful and sad in almost every way. Lyrics like these do not come around often, and when they do they make you realize how truly dead music is these days. More than anything "The Devil and God..." is a piece of pure art and should be ingested and thought-through. Brand New still keep their poppy edge ("Millstone", "You Won't Know", "Not the Sun", and even more on "The Archers Bows have Broken"), but have tweaked their sound to reflect an almost british, Beatles-esque feel. I mentioned Radiohead earlier and I'll use the use of a theremin and robot-ish voices in the haunting instrumental "Welcome to Bangkok" as proof. "Handcuffs" borrows heavily from the Beatles school of vocal harmonies and song-structure; and the brilliant "Degausser" layers vocal lines upon vocal lines that, while inaudible, add to the mysterious aura that "the Devil and God..." bathes in.
I have to say outright that "Degausser" is a perfect song. Flawless flow, brilliantly arragned, and features the best vocal screaming/singing ever put to CD. This song is so emotionally charged you can almost feel the static building up in your hair. Also, "Not the Sun" is the best "rock" song Brand New has done since their previous outing "Deja Entendu", which boasted "Guernica", The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows", and of course, "Sic Transit Gloria, Glory Fades". "the Devil and God..." also boasts the best slow song since "Play Crack the Sky" in "Jesus Christ". "Jesus Christ" is an emotional waterfall, a journey through the mind of a tourtured soul whose last ditch effort to figures things out talks directly to Jesus. I am not exaggerating that anyone with human emotions will have at least a blip on their "touching" radar.
Production-wise, I don't think Brand New has ever sounded this good. Everything is clear except when it's meant not too be (i.e. different kinds of distortions). Although the vocals sometimes layer so much it gets confusing, and sometimes gets hidden in the mix to the point of inaudibility; it is all too easy to forgive and forget because you relize you are listening to something truly special. Although Brand New is not necessarily an extrememly talented band instrumentally, they do a great job of what they have and flex their creative muscles openly. They are the kind of band that doesn't take much crap from labels and that it's apparent in the simple fact that a good portion of the music on this CD is ambient and slow (not a huge selling point). This could be the reason why the CD packaging is skimpy and more or less detracts from the overall concept of the album because its just kind of pathetic. That is a minor concern since I'm reviewing the material, not the packaging, but I feel it's kind of worth noting that if you go to buy this album you're not going to get lyrics or even a band photo. Artistic expression or lack of funds? We'll probably never know, but at least the album is pretty solid.
The reason "the Devil and God..." isn't an instant classic is simply because the material is so self-critical that it shows up in the arrangement of the songs and the basic ideas of what an album is. Also, most of the songs can not stand alone as they are a part of the album and that sorely detracts from the final experience. Take "Luca" for example. A fine song, not amazing or anything, just fine. But it has 2 minutes of silence after the song ends and a "bonus" Luca track rolls out. Not only does this interrupt the entire flow of the album, it's also completely outrageous. It is probably the worst idea in music history and it is a shame that such a great album has to be marred by it's presence.
I think it's important to note that nearly all my grievences with this album are flow-related and for the most part almost every song on "the Devil and God..." are beautiful and powerful. Emotionally, there is no equal. Originality is a bonus because when you think of it, no one really sounds like Brand New. They derive their sound from many various influences (from the Beatles to even metal i.e. screaming and furious guitar solos), this in whole creates the Brand New sound which is all their own in it's own way.
*Beautiful, haunting atmosphere
* "Luca" decimates what little flow the album already had
* Loss of individuality song-wise
* At times the mix can get a bit muddy (nitpicky at best)
Buy it. I swear to you if you like any type of rock there will be something on this albuma that appeals to you. If you like Brand New's previous efforts, buy it. Buy it while it's $9.99 at Target!!! Do not miss out if you have any taste.
1. Sowing Season (Yeah)
3. Jesus Christ
6. You Won’t Know
7. Welcome To Bangkok
8. Not The Sun
11. the Archers Bows have Broken