Dead Throne: The Devil Wears Prada’s Hidden Masterwork
A review by Kris Kielich
When you encounter any album so personal and so driven by pain that you feel it like a punch to the gut with every word sung and screamed, you tend to mark such an album as a watershed in that band’s career. Think of the press around Whitechapel’s recently released The Valley and the positive press surrounding the emotional and intimate themes that Phil Bozeman explored in his lyrics and delivery, as well as the sometimes drastic new and exciting directions the band moved in musically.
That’s exactly how I feel about The Devil Wears Prada’s 2011 album DEAD THRONE. To me, this album is still the pinnacle of the band’s career. Coming off the extremely popular and revered With Roots Above and Branches Below, the band also shifted into new territory after testing their heaviness threshold on the excellent Zombie EP. What we got was a record that translated that heaviness into a record that captures a deep sense of doom and oppressiveness. Listening to every instrument and vocal fire on all cylinders from front to back was euphoric, yet the textures created on this record and frontman Mike Hranica’s lyrics were unlike anything they had ever done before. It felt like a landmark, yet I seemed to be one of the few that felt that way, gauging by the pretty good, but not overwhelmingly positive reception to the record. Today, it’s often overlooked in favor of their earlier work.
But put this record on if you haven’t in a while. You’ll definitely have forgotten how heavy it was. Tracks like “Mammoth” and “Constance” are among my absolute favorite TDWP tracks of all time. “Mammoth” is a song that is so emotional and cathartic. From the opening crushing riff to the soaring chorus, this is a song that feels like desperately waving for help as you’re drowning. I couldn’t help but think that Mike Hranica was going to just break down after likes like “I never meant to hurt anyone.”
The record was inspired by idol worship in a general sense, as humanity tends to put objects, people, and ideals on pedestals upon which they don’t often belong. But the record also came from a place of personal pain from Mike Hranica, who had a five year relationship come to an end. And you feel this in songs like “My Questions”, and “Born to Lose”. Really, it permeates the whole record in a dark fog, and to this day, Hranica hasn’t given a better performance than on this record, in my opinion. He is at his lowest, and that comes through. It’s that kind of pain that needs to be expelled like a demon through his screams and shrieks. It’s an emotional performance that still gives me shivers and goosebumps.
This is also a very melodic record at times, and though the band has always played a lot with cool textures and new techniques, the clean vocals here are really sticky and memorable long after the record comes to an end. And with a song like “Kansas”, the band explores a new territory in an instrumental track with distorted, spoken words and a heavy, doom metal vibe. Clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster runs at top performance through and through. Check out songs like “Vengeance”, and “Born to Lose” to see what I mean.
There are no unsung heroes on Dead Throne. Everyone gives 110 percent. Keyboardist James Baney adds eerie and haunting tones and melodies on every single track that elevates them in a way that takes the record to a new level. Drummer Daniel Williams give an absolutely skull crushing and blistering performance that dazzles with each track, and guitarists Chris Rubey and Jeremy DePoyster deliver bone crunching heaviness and some of the best guitar The Devil Wears Prada has ever done in tracks like “Constance”, and “Untidaled”. Bassist Andy Trick also makes the earth quake on that latter track, and his playing only further adds to the darkness.
All in all, as the press rolls in for albums like The Valley, (for which it’s totally deserved, by the way, that’s a fantastic album), I can’t help but wonder why Dead Throne never got the same shine in its day. It has the same blueprints for a watershed album in a band’s career. The emotion and turmoil, the musicianship and heaviness, the experimentation and melody – it’s all there. Hopefully one day the metal community will embrace the album in the way it deserves, but all the same, there is something nice about a hidden gem. It shines brighter in time.
The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne tracklisting:
1. Dead Throne
6. My Questions
8. Born To Lose
9. Forever Decay
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