Review Summary: An interesting and adventurous record that's just a tad bit all over the place
For the last 6 years The Devil Wears Prada have been constantly evolving and changing their shape. Not only is their every new record a transformation rather than a development, but also today's TDWP sound almost nothing like a band that recorded Plagues
more than a decade ago. Is that a bad thing? Some would argue it is, because fans tend to love bands for some specific qualities and when those cannot be applied to new material a band releases, fans often are left disappointed. But if a band knows how to write good music, such changes can be for the better. And since 8:18
and Transit Blues
have proven that the band's talent can't be defined by genre boundaries, their brand new full-length album The Act
has a lot to live up to.
First of all, to set the record straight, The Act
is not really a metalcore album. It sees Prada experimenting with a lot of different influences that not necessarily come from core genres. This shift was somewhat predictable given the singles "Please Say No" and "Chemical", but at the same time those two tracks weren't that representative of the rest of the album either. Both songs are pretty much their own things and only partially reflect what Prada was going for on this project. "Please Say No" as well as the first single "Lines of Your Hands" introduces the idea of screamed/spoken verses with minimalistic instrumentation which are used throughout the whole record, while "Chemical" hints at more prominent usage of Jeremy DePoyster's clean vocals, which is a major change compared to Transit Blues
where he was given much fewer vocal parts. But while Hranica's screams in verses are kind of hit-or-miss as they sometimes feel a bit repetitive and slow in delivery, especially on tracks like "As Kids" and "Isn't It Strange?", DePoyster's cleans are the best they've ever been. His singing not only makes for some amazing choruses, particularly in "Lines of Your Hands" and "The Thread", which may be amongst band's all-time best hooks, but sometimes completely steals the show leaving Hranica on the sidelines. A prime example of a show-stealer is "Wave of Youth" that has Hranica deliver some solid lines but it's certainly DePoyster who carries the whole cut with his memorable performance. But even though Mike's scream not always hit the nail on the head, it's a bliss every time they do. "The Thread" in particular features one of the strongest extreme vocals on the entire album, flashing out Hranica's range and emotional spectrum.
The Devil Wears Prada always have been incorporating keys and synths into their music and this album is no exception. The Act
is partly a return to more industrial and aggressive electronics that the band experimented with on 8:18
and then abandoned for a more spacy feel on Space EP
and Transit Blues
. Songs on the record don't rely too heavily on programming (aside from "Isn't It Strange?") but it certainly plays a significant role in perfecting songs' atmosphere. It never feels over-the-top or tasteless, though there are a few electronic passages that add nothing to a song overall except for 30 extra seconds of runtime.
Regardless of a more minimalistic and moody approach to the record's general sound, there are still plenty of juicy guitar riffs scattered across the album. The Act
seems to take inspirations from different rock and metal genres in terms of its guitarwork. Softer tracks like "Chemical", "Please Say No" definitely have some shoegaze influences with their reverb-heavy melodies, while "The Thread" puts an interesting spin on "Korn gone metalcore". Overall there's much less of standard metalcore/post-hardcore riffage and rhythms than one would expect from TDWP. This record rather tries to present different rock genres through a prism of Prada's signature style. Sometimes it's a noticable problem as the album occasionally seems disjointed and tonally uneven. A few times certain songs sound like they don't know what they want to be, namely "Numb" that is particularly weirdly structured and feels more like a Trench era Twenty One Pilots' track. On the contrary, tracks like "Spiderhead" and "Wave of Youth" are incredibly well put together and have a nice flow structurally. According to the lead vocalist, Mike Hranica, the band had roughly 60 demos for this album so such bizarre inconsistencies make even less sense.
Despite a few negatives, The Act
is still a pretty decent album that has a lot of potential. I wouldn't necessarily say that this is a step in the right direction, but this is definitely not a failure either. It just seems that the band has faced a fork in the road not really knowing which path to choose for their future, and The Act being a little bit all over the place is just a small side effect of their deliberation.