Album Review: Transit Blues - The Devil Wears Prada
By Barnaby Britten
It seems strange to say it considering the band’s somewhat immature beginnings, but The Devil Wears Prada are now pretty much metalcore veterans. Their latest release, Transit Blues marks their sixth full-length album and the Ohio group has two EPs under their belt on top of this. Apart from one of those EPs (2010’s Zombie EP), I was never a fan of this band. But this album is one of those albums where everyone goes, “Wow! This is actually way better than the rest of their stuff!” And that’s exactly what everyone was saying about Zombie EP, so perhaps this album would have something to offer me after all.
Alas, this is not the case. I can, however, see why this record could be of interest to fans of this style of metalcore. This album is certainly a cut above what you would expect from bands like Asking Alexandria or Capture the Crown or pretty much any other metalcore-meets-synths kind of band. The amount of generic chuggy breakdowns is kept to an absolute minimum for one thing. Also, most of the time the use of synths is pretty tasteful rather than tacked on as a gimmick. Because of this, Transit Blues is probably TDWP’s most mature record, with a clear focus on crafting atmosphere and diversity. It also showcases some pretty tasty riffs and licks every now and again. The punky, slightly off-kilter intro riff to opener “Praise Poison” is probably the best of the bunch.
These sparse moments are unfortunately not enough to distract from its flaws. Most of this album simply passes by, plagued by underwhelming choruses. What’s more, some of the poppier ones can be somewhat irritating, third track “Worldwide” being the best (worst?) example of this. Despite clear efforts to make each track offer something different, with some tracks taking a slower paced, djent-y approach and others offering a more straightforward metalcore attack, neither technique makes for particularly interesting or hard-hitting listening.
Vocally, Mike Hranica’s screams are not bad at all, and Jeremy DePoyster’s cleans aren’t too whiny, but there are some cringeworthy lyrical moments that would perhaps be better disguised by more commanding vocalists. Thematically, many tracks deal with the ups and downs of life on the road (as indicated by the title of the record) and some with more political hot potatoes (“Lock & Load” tackles gun control, for instance) but the lyrical execution often lacks finesse or emotional clout. Hranica’s attempt at a more spoken word type of delivery on tracks like “To The Key Of Evergreen” and “Home For Grave Pt. II” are also particularly unsuccessful, neither suiting the music nor coming across as natural and authentic.
All in all, Transit Blues shows some interesting progressions and appreciated attempts at variety from TDWP, but it is by no means a reinvention of the wheel or indeed a great departure from the band’s familiar musical territory. If anything, it tries a bit too hard. For a fan of this band or this style of music in general, I have no doubt that this would be an enjoyable record. For someone who either doesn’t care for the band or only ever really liked Zombie EP, this album will likely bore you, or straight-up get on your nerves.