As 2013 begins its turn into the final quarter of its time, Christian metalcore veterans The Devil Wears Prada have brought to us their fifth full-length release, 8:18. The band's last release, Dead Throne, was middle-of-the-road quality and definitely showed that the Ohio band needed a fresh start to its sound. So, two years later, the keyboard player is gone and 8:18 has come to us with promises of a darker and more miserable feeling from the band, which I was rather shaky on hearing. I suppose that is the question at hand; can The Devil Wears Prada start anew and create a whole new beast of an album? With 8:18, one could’ve only hoped.
The album begins with “Gloom,” a song that had been played live by the band early on after the recording of the album. The synth has a similar feel to that of Meshuggah’s “Bleed,” so it definitely got my attention. That being said, once the guitars dropped in, two things immediately caught me: the guitars feel a lot weaker in this mix than in previous ones and singer Mike Hranica’s vocals have gotten much weaker in general. On previous records (most notably the Zombie EP and With Roots Above and Branches Below), Hranica delivered powerful screams; with 8:18, they feel weak and lacking polish, sounding at times like an early Francis Mark (From Autumn to Ashes), but in a way that is much less appealing to the listener. The song doesn’t hold any memorable moments, so I can skip along to the next few songs.
Next on the list of things to catch me with 8:18: the band has done very little to actually differ from the sound heard on Dead Throne. There seems to be a distinct lack of clean vocals by Jeremy DePoyster – and they are missed on several songs – including the first single, “Martyrs.” Songs like “Rumors,” “First Sight” and “Home for Grave” benefit greatly from Depoyster's performance, but the inconsistency behind Hranica’s screams leave me longing for those clean vocals which, most of the time, didn’t come in time before I was left bored by the song.
Two interesting tracks were the title track, “8:18, and “Care More” – which both hold a sort of interlude vibe to them. The title track has almost a Being As an Ocean vibe, with Hranica in a half spoken word/half scream scenario for its short run-time, while “Care More” holds more of an electronic, clean vocal-led softness to it. I’m reminded of “Louder than Thunder” from With Roots Above... quite a bit with “Care More,” but it doesn’t grip the listener quite like its predecessor was able to, along with being far more dragged out and dry, vocally.
Before I can move on to my overall opinion, I feel the need to cover the track “Martyrs,” specifically because it holds the most upsetting part of The Devil Wears Prada’s movement forward. With the keyboard player’s absence, the band chose a song that was supposed to show progression, but all it truly shows is a massive step backwards. It has the feel of their Dear Love... record, considering there were no cleans on the song, yet the guitars felt dry in the song, doing nothing as far as lead is concerned whatsoever. I was left looking for some kind of hook, and there was nothing to be found even close to that during the song. The fact that it was supposed to be the band’s big single is what makes it upsetting because it shows how far they’ve stepped back instead of forward, as well as showing just how much they really are missing those keys (because they are almost painfully dull on the track).
Overall, I can’t say I’m too surprised that this record has failed me, considering the band has been around for quite some time. At the same time, a metalcore band that has been in the scene for eight years now should know that delivering a truly original record requires a solid effort to change one’s sound instead of saying its different and just throwing certain different mixing touches to it (especially ones that only drag the music down further). This album is most certainly miserable, but not in the sense that The Devil Wears Prada was looking for it to be. The guitars were dry and there were bass drops needed to provide the depth to some breakdowns, yet they still felt boring and sterilized with each pass. DePoyster was overlooked on several songs, and 8:18 doesn’t recognize him as the asset he is for this band. Hranica needs to work on his screams and the songwriting has suffered overall. Because The Devil Wears Prada is a veteran act of the scene, I’m left feeling disappointment that dwells on the line of disgust. Skip this record if you’ve never listened to this band because it certainly will not make you want to listen to them any more than before.