I must admit, I’ve heard the name The Devil Wears Prada thrown around a lot, but I never bothered to give the Christian metalcore sextet from Dayton, Ohio a single spin. This all changed when I was given their latest record, With Roots Above And Branches Below, as my next review. It’s been a long and sometimes tumultuous journey, but I must admit that I’m fairly impressed. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I’m two parts impressed, and one part holding total and utter contempt for the clean singing.
The Devil Wears Prada definitely came to kick some serious ass, and this is completely evident in their choice of an opening track, “Sassafras”. I could seriously listen to the first twenty-two seconds of this song on repeat for the rest of my life. The opening riff-to-breakdown transition is the balls, plain and simple. Placing this song first was definitely a wise move on the band’s part, as they had my undivided attention from this point forward, no matter what. The musicianship and composition is outstanding throughout the song, which is a fair model for the rest of the record as well. I must note that the keyboard usage is very tasteful, as it really makes what would be an otherwise standard metalcore riff structure sound that much more full, and this is a nice change from most other metal bands that attempt to keep keyboardists in their line-up. It sometimes has a techno-esque dance feel to it, but for some reason, it just works out perfectly.
The guitar riffs themselves are pretty good and very passable, but not really worth writing home about either. The bottom line is that they don’t really bring anything new to the table. Couple this with the rest of the musical package that’s presented, however, and it’s very easy to like The Devil Wears Prada. The drumming is very solid, and was easily my favorite aspect of With Roots Above And Branches Below after the keyboards. “Wapakalypse” was a good example of the varied drumming that Daniel Williams offers. The screaming vocals are downright awesome as well. Ironically, I felt they were very reminiscent of Heaven Shall Burn’s semi-high-pitched shrieks, which are some of my favorite in the metalcore world: very throaty, but very in-your-face. The lower growls aren’t the best, but at the same time, I’ve heard much worse.
What really killed it all for me was the high-pitched clean singing that rhythm guitarist Jeremy DePoyster provides. At first, I just thought it was interesting. I mean, it’s not really emo at all, and I never really thought of it as full-blown whining. It almost reminded me of the singing you might hear in high-energy dance music at first, with only half of the electronics. After a while, I felt it was akin to nails on a chalk board. I really wish that he would have just stuck to playing the guitar. Half way through my first listen of With Roots Above And Branches Below, I couldn’t take the singing at all, and the mellow jam, “Louder Than Thunder”, made me want to hold my face to an automatic cheese shredder. It truly is a sad state of affairs, because I probably would have rated this record much higher without any clean vocals.
Before I wrap this up, I did want to mention that the cover art was done by Dan Seagrave, who is one of my personal favorites when it comes to album covers. He’s done cover pictures for the first two Gorguts releases, three of Suffocation’s albums, three Dismember albums, the first Edge Of Sanity record I ever got into, and the two best Entombed albums EVER. With Roots Above And Branches Below is no exception, as it has his distinct style of awesomeness, and it is a particularly evil-looking cover for a Christian metal band. Or maybe that was the point.
Clean singing aside, With Roots Above And Branches Below is definitely a decent metalcore record. Fans of the band will most likely be pleased, and I’m sure newcomers will be able to find plenty here that they like. I, however, cannot overlook the grating singing of Jeremy DePoyster. The music is such that I may rock a couple The Devil Wears Prada tracks here and there in the future, but the singing is irritating enough that I won’t really be able to consider myself a true fan. At any rate, I would still recommend that anyone who’s into the genre check them out for yourself to see where you stand.
02. I Hate Buffering
03. Assistant To The Regional Manager
04. Dez Moines
05. Big Wiggly Style
06. Danger: Wildman
07. Ben Has A Kid
09. Gimme Half
10. Louder Than Thunder
11. Lord Xenu