The Devil Wears Prada has proudly worn the crown as the kings of the post-hardcore genre for years now and With Roots Above And Branches Below is the brightest jewel of that crown. Few bands find the balance between clean and unclean vocals, knowing when to ease up on the screams and heavy guitar riffs and deliver a chorus worth remembering with the kind of soothingly sweet singing that would command respect in any genre. On The Devil Wears Prada’s 2009 post-hardcore masterpiece, the band managed to achieve that symmetry for the duration of an entire album, taking the screamo world by storm with a flurry of relentless drumming from Daniel Williams, guitar-chugging from Chris Rubey and Andy Trick on the bass, and guttural growls from lead vocalist Mike Hranica to create devastatingly brutal breakdowns for any hardcore purist to enjoy. These staples of the genre are not the only thing that sets TDWP apart however, as Jeremy DePoyster’s impeccable clean vocals complement the harder side of the music and open up an entirely new perspective of the emotion in this lyrically-charged album. In addition to DePoyster’s vocal performance, TDWP’s third album also stands head and shoulders above the competition because of keyboardist and synthesizer-man James Baney, who regrettably left the band in February 2012. Baney supplied an inventive and emotionally rousing touch to nearly every song with keyboard additions in the background too important to ignore. Combining all of these elements together makes With Roots Above And Branches Below one of the most immersive and impressive albums not only in TDWP’s history, but in the course of the entire post-hardcore genre.
“Assistant To The Regional Manager” follows two perfectly heavy openers and immediately lets the listener know their in for something extraordinary with an epic guitar intro before erupting into Hranica’s larger than life screaming steals the spotlight. The Devil Wears Prada is one of the best in the business when it comes to breakdowns and “Assistant To The Regional Manager” provides a perfect example as the song’s tempo sways between brutal breakdowns filled with Hranica’s paralyzing howls and lighter sections, complete with dramatic strings in the background, where DePoyster dominates by perfectly spouting off every high-pitch note needed to make this track stand out.
“Dez Moines” follows one of the best tracks on the album in “Assistant To The Regional Manager,” but somehow manages to outperform its predecessor with a flawless vocal performance from DePoyster and a dramatically emotional chorus that sets it apart as the pinnacle of With Roots Above And Branches Below. Hranica’s unclean vocals continue to be nothing short of admirable, DePoyster’s desperate wails of “All alone!” match the urgent whine of the electric guitar and the constant pounding of drums and chugging of the other guitars add the harder elements to create a truly memorable gem for an already stellar album.
“Ben Has A Kid” brings the Christian message behind The Devil Wears Prada’s music into clearer focus, even with this standout track being one of the heaviest in the band’s catalogue. With killer guitar riffs, ferocious breakdowns and throaty growls from Hranica, “Ben Has A Kid” contains some of the hardest material on the album, but it balances out with DePoyster’s vocally pure proclamations of “Beyond this world is worth dying for.”
Selecting only a few standout tracks for an album such as this almost seems pointless, as The Devil Wears Prada’s third album perfectly weaves in and out of each track with a fervor and feel rare to the genre; every song is a metalcore success that will keep the listener riveted during each play and coming back for more once it’s over. With a perfect blend of heavy breakdowns, Hranica’s freakishly guttural unclean vocals and DePoyster’s silky smooth clean vocals, The Devil Wears Prada deserves recognition as THE post-hardcore band of the last decade and one of the biggest driving forces of the genre. With Roots And Branches Below is nothing short of perfection, the quintessential album to display all that screamo music has to offer anyone capable of stomaching the aggressive and intense nature of the music, which is heightened even more by Hranica’s innate ability to actually enunciate while howling at the top of his lungs. Fans of We Came As Romans, Underoath, Of Mice & Men, Attack Attack!, August Burns Red, Miss May I, Blessthefall, Asking Alexandria, Memphis May Fire and Bring Me The Horizon have likely already delved into the incredible music of The Devil Wears Prada as they set the high bar for everyone else in the metalcore genre to chase after. Having two uncannily talented vocalists certainly doesn’t hurt; from the peak of Hranica’s screams of “Run to the sky!” on “Big Wiggly Style” to DePoyster’s crisp and calming performance on the ballad “Louder Than Thunder,” TDWP benefits greatly from both ends of the vocal spectrum being delivered so affluently. But when the vocal talent is combined with completely devastating breakdowns and artistic touches of the piano and synthesizers, the true musicianship of this post-hardcore giant becomes all too clear, making With Roots Above And Branches Below one of the most triumphant albums of the entire genre.
Final Score: 10/10
Rank: 1st (four total albums)
- I Hate Buffering
- Assistant To The Regional Manager
- Dez Moines
- Big Wiggly Style
- Danger: Wildman (Feat. Trevor Wentworth)
- Ben Has A Kid
- Gimme Half
- Louder Than Thunder
- Lord Xenu