Review Summary: Yet another boring, rehashed metalcore album which offers little of substance to the table. Yawn.
Having never read the book "The Devil Wears Prada," nor seen the movie "The Devil Wears Prada," the name of the Ohio metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada means very little to me. And while I'm sure there is some deep, philosophical meaning behind it, but when I read it, it just seems like yet another vain, attempt at being original or different. And judging by the stupid song titles featured on The Devil Wears Prada's latest album, Plagues, song titles such as such as Hey John, What's Your Name Again and Reptar, King of the Ozone, the band's name seems just as pretentious and lame as every other similar act in the Christian metalcore scene. Interestingly enough, after listening to The Devil Wears Prada's second full length release to say that the music reflects the unoriginality or, for lake of better term, lameness of the song titles isn't too much of a stretch. In fact, throughout my several listenings of the album, such suspicions would be quite true.
While listening to Plagues one could split the album into two fairly different (both in terms of quality and actual sound) formulas. The lesser and quite frankly more annoying of these formulas is that of the heavier sound which generally make up the backbone of most of the albums songs. Not only does it sound like what virtually every other –core band out there is attempting, it's also a rather poor attempt at capitalizing on recent trends. Guitarists Chris Rubey and Jeremy DePoyster might display a shred of talent every now and then, but the duo spend more time either on the down-tuned rhythm guitar which is usually stuck in the background (but don't worry, it's still more audible than the bass guitar) or playing some trite, sterile sounding breakdown which does little to elevate the music above a tired and directionless state.
Unfortunately vocalist Mike Hranica doesn't exactly help the problem. Similarly to the breakdowns, his screams are somewhat intense sounding, but they end up hurting the song more than they help. Hranica generally utilizes a guttural scream and on some occasions a deeper growl ("DOI!" – HTML Rulez D00d), but unfortunately neither vocal style really has any range, nor variety. And while most of Plagues' songs are virtually identical, opening track Goats on a Boat does an exceptionally good job at being, well, poor. The headache inducing screams, which give off the impression that Hranica is vomiting in the studio, don't fit the layered guitars, which give off the impression that they don't seem to be able to decide whether they want to sound melodic or heavy. Repeat this over, I don't know, ten songs, and you'd have both Plagues and a rather urgent desire for an aspirin.
On the flip side, The Devil Wears Prada also makes use of fairly lively clean sections to go along with the heavy wall of sound that is their more aggressive side. And it is here where the band chooses to introduce its major sticking point – the keyboards. While the keys, played by James Baney are utilized rather often throughout the album no matter which formula the band makes use of (see Number Three, Never Forget or HTML Rulez D00d (ugh)) the electronic effects are given the most breathing room during the softer moments. And this is where Plagues shines really. The cleaner moments of the album are among the only moments where the band is listenable at all, really, and even then it isn't particularly impressive. Though the band attempts to vary things up a tad by not sticking to a certain song structure (songs such as This Song is Called, and Number Three, Never Forget start off in fairly calmly, particularly the former which opens with a brief piano piece, whereas the likes of Don't Drink and Drance (what") and Hey Jon What's Your Name Again both start off with harsh screaming and heavy riffing), they fail to craft anything that hasn't already been heard. The fact that they use keyboards to accomplish this is a nice gimmick, but is ultimately rendered useless due to the fact that it doesn't produce an interesting sound for the band.
All and all, Plagues is a very predictable album. It isn't totally bad, as some of the more light-hearted moments (particularly in the intro to This Song is Called) are passable and somewhat interesting. But the majority of the recording is a rather poor offering which produces the listener little incentive to continue listening. The instrumental performances themselves are wholly unimpressive and do not mesh with Mike Hranica's screams (however I'll admit, his clean/whiny singing seems a little more appropriate when it is used) very well at all. Musically, The Devil Wears Prada seems unable to put together a song of decent structure and because of this; their music is devoid of emotion and sounds ridiculously uninspired. The –core kids will likely eat this up, but I would suggest that the rest of you look elsewhere.
This Song is Called