Take a moralistic outlook on life and mix it with heavy metal music, and people get the genre that is Christian metalcore; add a little complexity and a highly fantastical, hopeless universe and you get The Devil Wears Prada and their two conceptual EPs, Zombie and Space. Released in 2010, the band from Ohio shocked fans and critics with Zombie, a startling and unexpected transition from their 2009 studio album, With Roots Above and Branches Below. Five years later, the band brought Space, in 2015. Both albums stray from lyrical Christian metaphors on life and travel around an abstract, visionary hellscape, while producing an expansive, dynamic sound vastly different from their other records.
In a tentative countdown, the emergency broadcast message sets the conceptual scene which is Zombie, warning of a doomed “virus” that has (ironically) “completely devastated” many of the world’s regions. The stream is in black and white and high quality, with shifting camera angles and supreme lighting which makes the show feel like the set of a film. Signalling the start of “Anatomy” is a roaring chainsaw: the ultra-gorey soundtrack for the brutal imagery of, “Teeth missing/ Fragile flesh falling away.” Hranica’s vocal style fluctuates throughout TDWP’s archive, but the lead vocalist’s decision to stick to a husky, deeper growl throughout the performance immensely adds to the somber, fear-filled concept. The final refrain of “Anatomy” is one of the many treasures across the EP, as guitarist and singer Jeremy DePoyster sweeps in with his clean, mesmerizing vocals on top of a euphoric, building riff and Hranica’s hopeless screams. The duo’s voices, though contradictory in style, lace together seamlessly to produce the perfect metalcore instrument, maintaining intense sound while simultaneously piercing through with emotion.
Bassist Mason Nagy gives “Outnumbered” a weightless quality as he works with a double-bass effect; the track is arguably the most intense title on the record, with heavy, speeding drums and a certain sound that pushes the band’s boundary into near-deathcore. Playing in dropped tuning allows DePoyster and Trick to carry the brutal heaviness across the entire record, even when switching from the breathless whirlwind that is “Revive” to the final, more subdued track, “Survivor.” Any sliver of hopefulness is destroyed as Hranica belts, “No remedies have been discovered/ The cure is a shotgun.” Keyboardist Jonathan Gering fades the record out with “Survivor,” as the heavy instrumentals cut off and a combination of synths and sound effects ultimately land in a pit of hopelessness.
Five years passed between the conceptual EPs Zombie and Space, but almost no time passes in the show as TDWP transitions from an apocalyptic hellscape to a more dynamic cosmos. Similar to the previous EP, the scene of Space is set with an intro recording involving a rocket launch that leads into the explosive first track, “Planet A.” Hranica’s vocals skyrocket in pitch as he unleashes a screeching scream over heavy riffs and a surprisingly steady drum rhythm from Giuseppe Capolupo. DePoyster’s haunting, mellow voice complements a brief, toned down interlude, before the song ends just as it began. “Mankind searched the universe,” Hranica bellows, “Curiosity can be a curse.”
“Alien” is as it sounds: a song about alien creatures wreaking havoc on Earth. Appropriately, the track is rapid, with stretched, growling vocals from Hranica and an intricate set of guitar riffs that make up the melody. “Moongod” is angry and destructive, while the instrumental interlude that follows Hranica’s screaming vocals is graceful, showcasing in just a short minute-and-a-half the talent that TDWP holds for creating emotional, heavy-rooted melodies.
“Supernova” is driven by a shiny riff from DePoyster that makes it the most melodic, radio-friendly track on the record. The guitarist nearly loses his balance as he bends backward, his fingers moving expertly at a fast pace across the guitar neck over a refined drumbeat. “Where will you go? Where will you be?” the guitarist’s lucid voice takes control over Hranica in superior harmony, like a clearing in a dark, chaotic landscape. The final track, “An Asteroid Towards Earth,” is powerful live, seeming to conjure up all that is left of TDWP’s strength—and Hranica’s vocal chord—with an in-and-out, dynamic tempo and multi-layered vocals.
“It’s getting closer now,” DePoyster sings repeatedly as the song comes to a final close, signaling the doomed fate of the band’s conceptual cosmos: a sudden break in sound and a fade into the abyss. Nothing but the grainy noise of detached amplifiers can be heard as The Devil Wears Prada exits the setting of the universe created by Zombie and Space, while leaving the rest of the viewers wondering if they’ll ever escape.
An Asteroid Towards Earth
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna