The Devil Wears Prada are so fortunate they’ve been given the chance to grow into the band they are currently. They’ve well and truly shed the identity of MySpace-forged scene-metalcore chancers that their name would suggest, and have blossomed into one of the most acclaimed bands that scene has to offer, particularly off the back of their Zombie EP which to many remains their definitive release even after nearly a decade since its release. But that could largely be a case of The Devil Wears Prada’s music never going too far out of its own predetermined circles; their albums tend to be well-received, but beyond their core fanbase, they don’t have all that much reach, which is why, regardless of how good they are, they tend to get forgotten pretty quickly on the whole. And so, that leaves The Act with a pretty sizable task, not only to potentially serve as the album that has more widespread appeal for The Devil Wears Prada, but to do that alongside a rather well-documented change in sound.
But with The Act, it’s difficult to say whether or not they achieve that. This is definitely a more dynamic sound overall, experimenting was passages of melody alongside the heavier elements that continue to provide their foundations, but that also leaves an album that’s somewhat diluted on the whole, struggling to come together and winding up as a series of tracks that only really connect after a lot of effort, or just dissipate with forgettability almost completely. All that comes alongside the band’s ear for isolated melody not even being all that bad, but when it isn’t brought together with that much force or verve, it makes The Act feel decidedly par-boiled, often approaching these bigger peaks of drama and tension without committing to them.
What’s strange, though, is that all of that doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of The Act having standout moments, as The Devil Wears Prada are still more than able to head down the new alleyways they’ve formed and produce something that has the necessary darkness and claustrophobia that a lot of the more open-to-interpretation lyrics try to convey. There’s a defiant, building size to Chemical that Mike Hranica’s tense, often wavering vocals do a lot to elevate, as is the case for the sonorous rumble of Please Say No or the almost grunge-influenced backdrop lent to Diamond Lost. It’s not an album that feels hindered by creative boundaries like so many others trying similar melodic paths have in the past; here, it comes and goes as the flow of the track dictates, and with Hranica being the fluid vocalist that he is, he’s arguably the most consistent throughline in terms of a breathing, evolving presence that The Act has.
When it comes to everything else though, that’s where this album takes somewhat of a turn into shakier territory. As refreshing as it is for The Devil Wears Prada to break away from a scream-sing template that’s become so overdone in metalcore, and yet continues to be beaten into the ground, the sense of structure that The Act has is a lot less clear, as songs change and grow within themselves, but just wind up meandering through it rather than landing much of a distinct impact. A song like Lines Of Your Hands definitely comes the closest in embracing the galloping pace and heavier, sturdier progressions that have become the standard in modern metalcore, but especially as the album goes on and digs itself deeper and deeper into the zone its formed for itself, it becomes clear that it’s just not that workable of an effort. Regardless of how strong individual moments and passages are, there’s rarely an opportunity for them to shine among similar instances that highlight them, and while that’s not to say the album feels disjointed (because it really doesn’t), it’s not got the best sense of forward motion, and that does hurt it significantly. At least the cleanliness of the production keeps everything regimented enough to remain somewhat cohesive, but the lack of a real impression that The Act makes despite how much it tries to be more than the sum of its parts is unavoidably disappointing on the whole.
If nothing else, there’s solace to be taken in the fact that it could be worse, and as far as melodic metalcore like this goes, The Devil Wears Prada continue to put their own spin on the typical approach rather than just doggedly following an already saturated lead. On the other side though, The Act comes across as an approach that could’ve done with a bit more seasoning still, if only to get the right balance between how well it can fare in individual pieces, and how to get those pieces to cooperate and work as a whole. It’s not bad and does have glimpses of what could amount to more, but it’s not the best use of a talented band’s abilities, and that can be rather clear to see.
For fans of: August Burns Red, Underøath, The Word Alive
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Act’ by The Devil Wears Prada is out now on Solid State Records.