Review Summary: The devil's stopped winning.
When I was in my second year at university I was a self-destructing mess. I slept until the evening, woke up, got wasted, ruined friendships, punched my friends and then stayed awake thinking about a girl that was too far away. I was a directionless jumble of insecurities and obsessions, starting assignments three hours before they were due, and missing every lecture and seminar on my timetable despite living next door. I remember walking down my street in the bite of autumn holding a bottle of wine on my way to meet half-friends in a bar, already blind drunk only two days after a weekend that had seen me black out twice.
I am still unable to put distance between that image - a perfect summation of everything that was wrong with me in those six months - and 'Sowing Season', the opening track of The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
. I used to think the passion was something I only felt because of the rage inside me
; in short, I believed that my personal attachment to the album it propelled could be traced without concession to the adrenaline that shot through me when I couldn't help but scream along to the track's chorus, a desperate scream. 'YEAH!' I don't even know why it meant so much.For almost a year I couldn't listen to it; every time Jesse Lacey exploded, angry and conflicted, it was just a reflection of me on that bitter street; every time he had the poise to see himself for the mess he was, it was just an echo of me wondering what the fuck I was doing.
That's what TDAG
is - an echo, a reflection, a shadow. It is quite possible the emotionally heaviest album I've ever heard, particularly in terms of the painful. Brand New employ the unexpected - especially for fans of the band's previous work - to send those jolts of feeling through their audience. Just in the first song, there are two phenomenal, unexpected moments which drag the listener to attention: the first, the sudden and dramatic surge that is the first chorus' momentous guitars; the second, the way the sensation is pushed into overdrive by an even louder, more frantic second refrain.
It's this erratic, unpredictable core which makes TDAG
a pain to listen to, and I mean that in the best possible way; this is not a happy album, it's not meant to be, and it's very unlikely to hook onto any of your happiest memories. The lines that resonate are the troubled ones, where Lacey screams that he can't shake the feeling
surrounded by an ocean of pulsing guitars, or asks what you learned tonight
with the slightest hint of caution in his voice. And the aesthetic that envelopes and suffocates him is of the same origins; it's raw, it's cutting, it's uncomfortable and it's damn depressing.
So why the hell should you listen to it? The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
is an exercise in exorcism; it's the simple act of facing up to your problems and wrongdoings over and over and over again that brings about the acceptance of them and eventually removes them from your psyche. It's ambitiously constructed, decidedly overwrought and undoubtedly one of the most difficult listens you'll encounter, simply by virtue of its tortured subject matter and claustrophobic songwriting. But it all adds up to something wholly intense and personal, which might tear you to pieces the first few times and a few more after that. But eventually, after a while, the devil stops winning. I'm not quite sure God ever takes control, but I guess you never really know.