Review Summary: Brand New's Magnum Opus
Brand New’s widely considered magnum opus, “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”, comes in a refined, sanded down and smoothed out version of “Deja Entendu”. It boasts an impressive collection of ballads and fist pumpers that exceed the latter stylistically, melodically, and in originality. Where “Deja” becomes repetitive, awkward, or flat out boring, Brand New step up their game and add new dimensions and intricacies that have developed into one hot album.
Brand New’s previous efforts suffer from repetitive, synthetic song structures, which constantly leave the listener in a purgatorial sense that Brand New had not quite hit their stride, and this time, things are a bit different. “The Devil and God” reward anticipative music fanatics and teenage girls alike with a superfluity of hooks and lures that go unnoticed only by the blind and obnoxiously ignorant. “Millstone” exhibits one of the most instantly accessible vocal melodies on the album, while keeping a consistent tone that never disrupts flow or submits to monotony. “Brand New” also manage to express profound meaning without distortion or screaming this time around. Jesse Lacey’s passionate yelps and perilous whispers display Brand New's constant emotive heart and soul. Where Brand New has been known to place a chorus or a fierce shout on previous releases, they instead insert moments like the summative ending to “Jesus”. The music first lulls you into a sense of melodic security helped along by Lacey’s personable lyrics, all while periodically holding the musical landscape to the bare minimum, adding upon it layers of vocal harmonies and electronic accents. Finally he catches you off guard with powerful shout that begs to have the listener, eyes shut and fists raised, bellow back with the lines “But we all got wood and nails, and we turn out hate in factories”, using the heavy sections of their songs more effectively than ever.
Meanwhile, Brand New are still able to stick to their roots, and continue to incorporate distorted fast paced melodies. This time around, however, instead of interrupting the natural feeling and flow of the song, the heavier sections become embedded in the very nature and fabric of the song. Examples of this are present in album opener “Sowing Season”, where Lacey’s screamed, choral “yeah” is anticipated and awaited, not with exasperation, but excitement. The Build-up of the instrumentation and musical tension cries for a climax in the form of aggression, rendering the placement of the device as a logical conclusion.
Brand New’s commonly boasted strengths in previous releases have been dominantly present in the softer passages, however, and that remains consistent in “The Devil and God”. Brand New uses restraint as its greatest ally as they progress beyond outstanding melodies and commendable lyrics by using original and progressive ideas. In the album closer, “Handcuffs”, the song starts off as just a guitar line and vocal melody, then briefly pausing as the melody builds upon itself calmly, giving the song characteristic distinction. Lacey drives this simplistic approach with authentic lyrics that compliment the ballads on the album, and, especially in "Handcuffs" case, helps keep things interesting, giving the song time to progress, allowing it to take root and flourish organically. The highlight of “Handcuffs” is the introduction of the bass in the second verse that brings irreplaceable warmth and tone. The addition of the duo strings also gives the track its own voice and melodic appeal. The restrained feel finds a climax among the flirtatious and complementary nature of the cello and violin. the use of restraint is used most powerfully in “Luca”. The song builds itself into a chorus. As the song progresses, it strips down from a dense wall of sound to the most serene of whispers and plucked strings, that haunts and stirs within the listener. This continues until the listener is taken aback by an eruption of the most frightening piercing shrieks, distorted instrumentation, feedback and screams. Pounding drums follow, along with bass and guitars, riffing in a fury to bring the song to a close on a single chord.
Also, for the first time, Brand New has a dominantly up-beat track, as opposed to having solely up beat elements, and it turns out to be an album highlight. The track possesses one of the catchiest chorus’ and is a lot of fun to listen to. The rolling drum beat keeps the atmosphere feeling light, and helps transition the riffing in and out of the verses. The song writing on this track agreeably refuses to succumb to a traditional verse-chorus-verse song structure, as the chorus’s add upon themselves’ vocal melodies and other intricacies until it's brought to a climax, and then finally to a close.
“Brand New” also manages to keep their commanding leads well spaced apart, so that the instrumentation is never competing for the spot light with Jesse Lacey’s outstanding vocal performance. The drums maintain their composure and perpetuate rather then dominate, and the guitars work together to create thick atmospheric soundscapes, as opposed to repressing the other instruments for the sake of shredding to outshine. The bass is used as a thick undertone to the guitars where appropriate, but the placement of bass leads and melody are also placed without complaint as they accentuate and give hearty undertone where obligatory.
To top it all off, the lyrical content and maturity fits well with the sound that has been cultivated. Lacey uses melancholic imagery throughout, making this another Brand New album with standard Brand New lyrical content. The sound is still dark, and reminisces of nostalgia and doubt. The only difference is, Brand New aren’t kids anymore, and connect to their listeners through concepts that they’ve experienced themselves, and universal concepts. Thoughts of regret seem to surface when Lacey belts out “I used to know the name of every person I'd kissed. Now I made this bed and I can't fall asleep in it”, and the musical tone conveys this feeling with purpose and legitimacy you’d expect from Brand New.
Each song is placed right where you’d expect it, and Brand New manages to keep things fresh each song this time around. As this album is a personal grower, it’s safe to say that it isn’t instantly accessible to all, but with a little effort, and perhaps time for Brand New’s songs to click and get “under your skin”, it’s easy to see the myriad of musical gems contained within “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”. It would be foolish not to predict that “Daisy”, their newest release, would be a failure after this monumental outputting by Brand New. Whatever they do next, it’s foreseeable that whilst great, they may never top this masterpiece.