Written by: Continuous Thunder
Like a wizard, my wanderings often take me outside the gates of our little town. And while I always intend to return, the exact time of my reappearance is unknown, even to me. As I have once again found myself shuffling through the streets of this somnolent hamlet, I decided to prove to our dear Administrator that I am still a productive citizen by giving myself a relatively easy assignment. So let us take a look at what I believe to be one of the finest metalcore releases of the last decade.
2009 was a good year for The Devil Wears Prada. Metalcore was reaching its commercial peak and production techniques had finally caught up to more effectively capture the band’s specific take on the genre. They released their third album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, one that would perfectly capture that specific moment in the heavy music scene and solidify TDWP’s place in it. It was clearly the highest point in their career at the time. But little more than a year later, they would surpass Roots by leaps and bounds with only 5 tracks.
Zombie EP is a conceptual release built, unsurprisingly, around the story of a zombie apocalypse. This was borne from vocalist Mike Hranica’s interest in zombie movies and novels. By limiting themselves to a single subject, they ended up producing some of their tightest compositions to date. The riffs come hard and fast with the sound of the album leaning more towards hardcore and even thrash (by the band’s own admission) rather than the blueprint of the scene they helped popularize. But that doesn’t mean the EP is absent of chugging breakdowns or clean vocals, they’re just used to different effect.
One of the most noticeable changes is the role that keyboards and synths play in this EP. On previous TDWP releases, these were used to provide contrast, but on Zombie, they are more supplemental and used to create an atmosphere. The first track opens with an orchestral intro, setting the stage of a dark and cinematic story, and “Anatomy” has sharp synths that play along with the guitars in the opening riff, adding to its edge. The band also makes use of sound effects familiar to the genre to drive the concept home even further. “Escape” uses a shotgun blast to kick off a breakdown, “Anatomy” opens with the starting of a chainsaw, and “Outnumbered” contains a sample of an emergency PSA. They were so committed to this concept, that preordered copies of the EP came with a comic book starring the band in their own zombie apocalypse.
Lyrically, the EP is pretty straightforward. The songs describe with urgency the need to survive and the shambling masses of the undead. The subject of the zombie apocalypse isn’t really being used as a metaphor for anything, they’re just building their own apocalyptic hellscape. Some nuance is present in the final track, “Survivor,” told from the perspective of a man holed up in a farm in the midwest, mourning the death of his wife and struggling with the solitude and loneliness as he tries to outlast the catastrophe. Which brings me to the band’s interesting decision to make this a rather bleak release. Some zombie stories tend to leave us with some glimmer of hope and recovery, where this EP really doesn’t. Even “Revive,” the one track that mentions a cure at all says that “the cure is a shotgun, the cure is whatever blunt instrument one can salvage,” and goes on to say that “we cannot restore, we cannot recover, all is lost…”
Despite its hopelessness, I think that the Zombie EP is one of The Devil Wears Prada’s best releases, if not the best. It contains some of their most brutal and concise work and they do a remarkable job of creating the atmosphere of a zombie apocalypse with metalcore. If you haven’t given this one a listen, I highly recommend it. And one last little fun fact. Yes, this EP came out in 2010, the same year everyone became obsessed with zombies. That was largely due to the premiere of The Walking Dead TV series. However, this EP was released in August, a whole two months before the premiere of the show. Did the band know something we didn’t? The world may never know
The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie EP was released in 2010 on Ferret Music
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!