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We all know the feeling we get when a band we follow puts out the word that a new album is in the works. Sometimes there are updates along the way and sometimes we just have to be patient and wait. As the date draws nearer, the excitement builds and then, finally, it’s here! Reaction to the newest release from The Devil Wears Prada will likely be formed largely by an individual’s view of the band’s history. No matter what the expectations were, many listeners are going to be surprised. Whether the surprise is positive or negative will depend on if you want more of the same or if you are willing to venture into uncharted territory. If you are willing to take the plunge, prepare yourself. This is a band that is not working within a box, and they have created a masterpiece called “The Act”.

One would think that writing about a masterpiece would be easy, that effusive praise would naturally follow and that hyperbole would abound. “The Act” does not allow for any of this to come easily as there is so much going on with this album. Fans of the early days will still get plenty of screams, breakdowns and beatdowns. There are still plenty of heavy, chugging guitars and all of the metalcore trappings that people have come to know, love and expect. But there is also so much more. In abundance.

You want your heavy guitars? You’ll find them big-time on “Switchblade”, “The Thread”, “Even Though” and “Spiderhead”, among others, but you’ll also find plenty of other moments where the guitars are nothing short of beautiful. Between the composition of the songs and the use of effects, a moody and ethereal atmosphere is created and it runs through much of the album, especially in songs like “Wave of Youth”, “Please Say No” and “Diamond Lost”. This is not to say that these are soft songs, because they are not. They are edgy, but they also contain depth and maturity.

“The Act” isn’t all about guitars, either. There are electronic elements running throughout, featured nicely in “Isn’t It Strange”. On the flip side you’ll hear piano worked into some of the songs. None of this takes away from the edginess of the album, and all of these elements work together to perfectly season each song they are featured in.

Does it feel like I am jumping all over the place? I am, and this album does the same thing, but in a very good way. Each song takes you to a different place, and many times they will take you to the edge and then pull you back, just before you reach the tipping point. This is perfectly executed in “The Thread”. “Chemical” builds right from the beginning and continues to ascend all the way to the end. “Numb” is a blender of the ethereal bleeding into an alternative sound, which then flows to heaviness before winding back to the ethereal. And so it goes, song by song.

The one element that ties everything together on “The Act” are the vocal performances and how they are used. “Switchblade” leans on the screaming, while “Lines of Your Hands” hooks us with an excellent clean vocal chorus. But the songs that show true brilliance in their approach to the vocals are the ones that find a perfect blend of the two, and this happens often all throughout “The Act”. The raw passion and emotion that comes through is undeniable and each song conveys the sense that every single word is not only important, but necessary.

The approach to the making of this album must be credited, as the production works almost as another member. Layers of depth are present in each song. The electronic elements, vocal contrasts, effects and imagination used to produce “The Act” are a big part of what will make this a legendary recording. The combination of performance and production provides for many surprises and unexpected twists and turns throughout the entirety of the album. A great example of this is found on “Please Say No”, an intense song that builds to an emotional ending. This song literally gave me goosebumps.

The approach to the lyric writing is very suitable for the music as they are emotional, haunting and artistic. On the surface, the message of the album appears to be spiritually neutral, but, as with all art, this is open to interpretation. “The Act” is an ambitious recording that swings for the fences and easily crushes it out of the park. Long-time fans of the group may feel that there are too many clean vocals or quiet moments, but this is without question the band’s most mature work. The Devil Wears Prada have not only created a masterpiece, but they have also elevated the game for anyone else who is interested in playing. -JH Tomblin

4.5 out of 5 switchblades, highly recommended

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