Review Summary: Brand New's Magnum Opus3 of 3 thought this review was well written
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”, that boasts an impressive collection of ballads and fist pumpers that exceed the latter stylistically, melodically, and in originality. In areas 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 had suffered from repetitive, synthetic song structures, which constantly leave the listener in a purgatorial sense of that Brand New had not quite hit their stride. “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” manage to express profound meaning without distortion or screaming this time around. Jesse Lacey’s passionate yelps and perilous whispers display Brand News constantly emotive heart and soul. Where Brand New has been known to place a chorus or a fierce shout, they insert moments like the summative ending to “Jesus”. The music first lulls you into a sense of melodic security of Lacey’s personable lyrics, bringing the musical landscape to the bare minimum, and adds upon it layers of vocal harmonies and electronic accents, until finally he catches you off guard with a melodic and 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.
Brand New stick to their roots, and continue to incorporate distorted fast paced melodies. This time around, 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. Build-up of instrumentation and musical tension render it as an effective placement of the device, and necessary to the auspicious mood of the song.
Brand New’s 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 culminative album closer, “Handcuffs”, the song starts off as just a guitar line and a vocal melody, and then briefly pauses as the melody builds upon itself calmly giving the song characteristic distinction with electronic emphasis placed. Lacey drives this simplistic approach with authentic lyrics that compliment the ballad sections of the album throughout, and in this case, keeps things interesting, giving the song time to progress, never giving the writing a contrived impression. The highlight of “Handcuffs” is the one-two punch-introduction of the bass in the second verse that brings irreplaceable warmth and tone, and the commencement of the duo of strings that gives the track its own voice and melodic appeal. The restrained feel starts to climax as the flirting and complementary nature of the cello and violin is used to Brand New’s advantage.
Restraint is used most powerfully in “Luca”. The song builds itself into a chorus that is part atmospheric and part irrevocably catchy. As the song progresses, it strips itself from a dense wall of sound to the most serene of whispering and plucking of faint strings, that haunts and stirs within the listener. This takes place until the listener is interrupted by an eruption of the most frightening of piercing shrieks and distorted instrumentation, feedback and screams. Pounding drums, bass and guitars, riffing in a fury to bring the song to a close on a single chord, and all you’re left wondering is holy sh*t, that is some powerful stuff.
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 transitions smoothly into the constant riffing in and out of the verses. The song writing agreeably refuses to succumb to traditional verse-chorus-verse song structure faults , as the chorus’s add upon themselves’ vocal melodies to bring the track to a climax, and then finally to a close.
“Brand New” also manages to keep commanding leads apart from each other, 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, rather then try to repress the other instruments or shred to outshine. The bass is used as a thick undertone to the guitars where appropriate, but the placement of bass leads and melody are placed without complaint as they accentuate and give heart to where obligatory.
To top it all off, the lyrical content and maturity fits well with the sound that has been cessated. Lacey uses melancholic imagery throughout, making this another Brand New album with standard Brand New lyrical content. The sound is dark, and reminisces of nostalgia and doubt. The only difference is, Brand New aren’t kids anymore, but connect to their listeners with concepts that they’ve been through themselves, and concepts universal to them and others. 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, as the listen is never droningly tedious, and Brand New manages to keep things fresh each song this time around. As a personal grower, it’s safe to say that the album isn’t instantly accessible to all, but with a little effort, and perhaps giving Brand New’s songs time 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 to not predict how “Daisy” was set up for failure, after this release by Brand New. Whatever they do next, it’s foreseeable that whilst great, they may never top this masterpiece.