Review Summary: It appears as though they have removed their heads from their asses.
The Devil Wears Prada is perhaps the poster band for the kind of generic, built-for-Warped-Tour metalcore that makes many of my acquaintances in metal vomit all over their shoes in disgust. Before Zombie
, it was fairly easy to see why this was so. The band's music was about as cookie cutter as possible, their image was more in line with what you'd expect a group of 13 year old high school girls to look like rather than grown men playing "heavy" music, their attempts at humor through nonsensical song titles were cringe worthy and forced, and it was just an incredibly unappealing package. Fast forward to 2010 and the Zombie
EP, where the band appears to have finally begun to take things seriously and have also greatly improved as song writers and instrumentalists. It's not a perfect disc by any stretch of the imagination, but it still blows pretty much everything else they've ever done out of the water.
From the EP's cover art (which actually greatly reminds me of the front cover for White Tomb
by Altar of Plagues) to the significantly darker tone of the music, the band evokes a real sense of dread and despair on Zombie
. Taking cues from more intense metal bands such as, the band says, Slayer and Hatebreed, the music on this record is fast, heavy, at times extreme, and just all around better than what they had been doing prior. The first three tracks perfectly encompass the EP's overall feel, with each evoking the aforementioned sense of dread particularly through the keyboards. More string based than synth pad, the keys on the record are damn near the driving force of the music most of the time, suitably dark for what the band is trying to go for. Special mention in that regard goes to the beginning of "Escape", which could very easily be used in a modern horror film or video game's opening credits before breaking into the first of many tremolo picked riffs to be found here. The one thing in this song that brought me out of its element was the initial breakdown, which is so similar in riff and structure to the breakdown found in the middle of Vital Remains's "Devoured Elysium" that it simply cannot be a coincidence. The last minute of "Anatomy" may just be the best thing this band has ever written, with the soaring (yet admittedly very produced) clean vocals breaking in over top a truly epic ending to a great song. "Outnumbered" is the closest the band has ever come to deathcore, with blast beats and double bass abound. The breakdowns, while admittedly pretty samey in regards to every other popular metalcore group ever, are well placed and don't feel like they were just shoved in for the sake of having them in there. If these three songs were the sole tracks, this would be a practically perfect mini-EP...
...but that is not to be, as the record experiences a pretty significant drop off in quality on the last two songs, and, while they aren't deal breakers, are very much a great distraction from the damn near perfection of the first three songs. "Revive" almost immediately disregards what the tracks before it set in place by shifting right out of its intro section into a poorly designed breakdown in a completely different tempo. It follows that up with an unintentionally hilarious moment where the band does their best to emulate European folk metal. With its high strings and bouncy riff, I had to pause the song at first from laughing so hard at its unexpected and ridiculous, mood breaking intrusion. The rest of the song is nothing to really turn your head at, outside of the beautifully depressing piano and string outro, which hearkens back to the feel of the first three songs, but in a different sense. While the initial three tracks felt more like the eponymous zombie onslaught is taking place, "Revive"'s piano ending would be after the attack has ended, with whoever survived looking at the carnage around them and just weeping. It's wonderful and is pretty much the sole good aspect of the song. "Survivor" is a better song, but it's still of lesser quality than the first three. It attempts to go a more straight atmopsheric route throughout its duration, being much less a barnstormer of a song and more subdued in comparison to what came before it, what with its use of clean guitars and slower pace. It's a suitable end to the EP, even if it's a lesser song than the first 13 minutes of material.
Performance wise almost everyone is greatly improved instrumentally from the band's initial full lengths, playing faster and more extreme than they had ever played before. The one weak link in the chain is vocalist Mike Hranica, who still cannot perform harsh vocals for the life of him. He's better than he was before, but that's not saying much, and yet his vocals fit very well with the music on here. They may be bad, but they aren't distracting, and *insert celestial being here* knows that I enjoy quite a few bands with crappy singers (here's to you, overdone fat lady opera voice on the new Fleshgod Apocalypse album). All in all, Zombie
is by far the best release The Devil Wears Prada his put forth since forming. While I'm disappointed that they didn't fully carry over this style into their more recent full lengths, this is still a damn good record that should be given as fair a chance as humanly possible, especially from those who may be more inclined to hate the band for their past.