Sound — 6
Let me start by getting this out there: this particular style of metalcore has been showing signs of becoming quite passe for a few years now, and it surprises me how many bands out there are still going out there and milking it. There's very little that can still be said in this medium of metal, and it takes a pretty excellent band to come out and say it. The Devil Wears Prada's newest release "Transit Blues," is an adequate enough slab of metalcore that it will probably satisfy people who are still fans of the genre, even if the stylistic conventions of this band are not aging as gracefully as one would have hoped.
Short and snappy would describe the majority of the songs on this record. None of the first six songs on the record exceed three-and-a-half minutes in length, and all feature the pretty typical melodic riffs, atmospheric single-note guitar lines, the same kind of clean vocals in the choruses you'd come to expect from this genre, and sound about as "textbook" as a metalcore band can get in this day and age. There are many moments on this album, such as the song "Worldwide," that make me openly lament if people still go to Hot Topic like they did in 2005. Vocalist Mike Hranica's wails do kind of sound a bit like Chino Moreno's at times, and that's a bit of a plus. Jeremy DePoyster and newcomer Kyle Sipress handle guitar duties admirably throughout, mostly playing beefy rhythm guitar with some octave strumming and ambient high notes constituting all of the lead guitar parts. Some of the riffs that stand out on the album are the ones with the "stranger" kinds of tonalities, like the very first riff you hear on the album in the song "Praise Poison," which almost shows a bit of a mathcore influence. A couple of the tracks have quieter, softer moments and I feel like these are probably some of the better musical moments on the album, in the tracks "Flyover States" and "The Condition." There's nothing really special about the rhythm section, comprising of Andy Trick on bass, and session drummer Giuseppe Capolupo, replacing founding drummer Daniel Williams. They do their job, but there's nothing they really do at any point in the record that grabs my attention. There's really very little on this album that I find very attention grabbing, though there are some tinges of interest hidden in tracks like "To the Key of Evergreen."
The production is a little headache-inducing at times, but it's overall not too bad. I actually found it less of a sensory assault than the recent Meshuggah album which I just reviewed. There's a bit more breathing room during the softer sections. But unlike the Meshuggah record, this is one of the most sterile recordings I've heard in a long time. It sounds so pitch and time-corrected that it almost feels like there is no life at all in this record. Part of it is probably my bias against this particular brand of metalcore, but I find that this production style is pretty much present across the board in bands like this. Overall, though, it's not the worst metalcore sound I've heard recently, and it's still a bit better than a lot of the other bands in this genre I've recently reviewed (The Amity Affliction, Of Mice And Men, to name a few).
Lyrics — 7
I had expected a far different lyrical theme when research had told me that the band started with a very Christian influence. None of the lyrics on this album have much in the way of religious imagery, and instead seem to cover a variety of topics. And even for a metalcore band with as dark of a sound as TDWP, the lyrics occasionally speak in a very positive way, such as on the song "Worldwide," which is a song acknowledging the strength of the band's fanbase across the world ("From Milwaukee to Memphis, Pittsburgh to Portland, Maine/I'm a little restless, feeling like a need a change/By way of Brooklyn and up to Boston/I'm disenchanted, considering every option/I'm thinking and thinking that being around here has me sinking/And while home is always best, my neighborhood in the Midwest/I want to get lost in you, Tokyo"). A lot of the lyrics seem very personal and cryptic, with the band referencing literature ("Praise Poison" references William Faulkner's 1929 novel "The Sound and the Fury," while "Daughter" is based around the climax of Simone de Beauvoir's 1954 novel "The Mandarins"), but there are a few hard-hitting and straightforward lyrics such as "Lock and Load," a rumination on gun culture and mass shootings in the USA ("That gun is a tragedy, on and on and on/Buy it background check free, on and on and on/Why can't a child walk down the street? On and on/Another slaughter every week. Slow motion bullets"). There are also a few lyrics touching on relationships and other personal topics, and to be honest, most of the lyrics on this album are actually quite good, mature, and poetic, which is a real rarity in the genre.
As mentioned, Mike Hranica's vocals sound quite a bit like Chino Moreno from Deftones at times, but for the most part, he's a screamer who does the very typical metalcore sound, which is a bit hard to properly quantify, but usually consists of only two "notes," repeated back and forth throughout nearly every phrase of the album. His clean vocals, while decent, sound a little lifeless. He doesn't use them quite as much as some of his contemporaries, so in the end, his vocal sound is still probably among the best in the genre.
Overall Impression — 6
"Transit Blues" is not an album that's going to ultimately change my mind about the metalcore sound of the past decade or so. A lot of it is mired in the kind of generic drop-B riffing and breakdowns that you'd come to expect in this genre, and there's really not much variety on this record. There are still aspects to appreciate on this album, such as the great lyrics and some of the album's more melodic, softer moments, but this is overall an album I'm not likely to spin again any time soon. However, if you're still a fan of the style, you might get more mileage out of this than I did. As far as late-'00s/early-'10s metalcore goes, this is probably one of the better releases in that style that I've gotten to review this year. The band is absolutely solid-sounding, and while they don't do anything to really expand upon the genre, they're definitely a lot more mature in their sound than a lot of their counterparts on the scene. This album easily gets a 6.5/10 from me (it's too bad we can't rate albums by decimal points, because I feel a straight 6/10 is a bit unfair, but it's not worth a 7).
Recommended if you're already a fan of this style. If metalcore's not your thing, it's barely a pass.