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Among the top tier of the newer generation of metalcore acts – that being August Burns Red, Bring Me The Horizon, and The Devil Wears Prada – the latter has been considered the lesser among them. Not as polarizing as BMTH or crabcore et. al. and not as intuitive as the less scene-friendly August Burns Red and their macho compatriots, The Devil Wears Prada was decidedly better than the likes of Attack! Attack!, but the reason for their existence did not seem very clear – it seemed like a more cohesive iteration of your generic metalcore band, and at best they seemed the band poised to inherit the rather dubious crown of Christian metal kings from Underoath. Their charm and confidence, though, has only increased over time. The ‘Zombie’ EP having established that they could be self-aware enough to evolve their sound on a project that could almost have just been fan-service throwaway material, and to follow through with those creative gains on ‘Dead Throne,’ ‘8:18’ does not disappoint. While it’s not likely to disarm the average metalhead of their criticism of the scene and its tropes, fans of the band will be more than satisfied, and haters may just be pleasantly surprised by how listenable this album is.

The songs all sound tight without it feeling like it was all running together, for the most part. The range of vocalists Jeremy DePoyster and especially Mike Hranica are impressive, especially on tracks like “Gloom” and “8:18,” where, between obligatory high-pitched pop-punkish whining, the screaming modulates through intimidating growls and exasperated yelps with surprising ambition. Lyrically the band has improved its work of tying themes together with its oft-employed biblical references, without being too heavy handed about their religious leanings – it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Poison The Well could have and would have made similar, albeit much more subtle, references in their day.

Musically, the band shows proper restraint without feeling confined, remaining appropriately aggressive without getting sloppy or unfocused. On a track like “Martyrs,” the guitars are heavy but refined, perfectly complementing the anger and desperation in the vocals. Where a lot of bands might not let enough space come through between dynamic changes (if any appear) and breakdowns, The Devil Wears Prada knows a thing or two about structure, and certainly know better than to simply bludgeon the listener with incomprehensible drop-C riff upon riff. There is also some noticeable stylistic variation on “Care More,” bearing some resemblance to older alternative metal and industrial acts, approximating Nine Inch Nails and Evanescence. It builds an atmosphere other than belligerent frustration, which is incredibly refreshing.

While there will always be those non-believers who will wail “it’s nothing like their first album,” I think most fans of the band will appreciate this more dynamically-cognizant evolution in the band’s career. It’s about as sophisticated as an MOR metalcore album is going to get these days, and that’s something to at least acknowledge if not whole-heartedly accept. And at best, there’s something to be said about a band that’s been going in the same style for so long that is at the same time fan-pleasers and musicians who can still find pleasure in doing it for themselves.

Recommended Tracks: Care More, Martyrs, Home For Grave, In Heart

GRADE: 6.5/10