With their debut album, God Alone (the side-project of The Devil Wears Prada members Mike Hranica and Kyle Sipress) have delivered not only a deeply introspective, brooding, and experimental record, but also a complete departure from the conventional tropes of heavy music.
Drawing from influences that seemingly range from indie rock to industrial post-rock to grindcore, their debut opus ‘Bent Shoulders’ is best characterised by its sheer dynamic range. Contemplative passages and discordant interludes transition with alacrity into monstrous, driving riffs overloaded with feedback whilst the downbeat and almost atonal vocals sit back in the mix, often taking on a narrative role more akin to spoken word poetry than singing.
Indeed, lyrical content (if not delivery) proves to be the only familiar touchstone for fans of The Devil Wears Prada, with religious allegory and anti-materialistic sentiment being prominent throughout.
Hranica has let his inner demons loose in the form of sardonic drawls and musings rather than death growls, but any doubts as to the effectiveness of this approach are dispelled by the time third track ‘Firehouse’, with its chilling and cynically delivered refrain of “Not every father can get it right”, rolls around. It’s at this point that the album really gets going, with the run from title-track to ‘Gold Rush’ being the definite high point.
The real virtue of this release is its ability to manifest the spirit of the melancholic lyrics in its instrumentation, each track becoming an evocative soundscape in its own right. Nowhere is this better displayed than in the title-track, which builds from a sparse and moody intro before allowing the rhythm section to really let loose, blasting the listener with a full-scale instrumental assault.
The production also shines here, with every component being distinct so that when the colossal crescendos hit, they retain texture and detail rather than being simply overwhelming.
Whilst the breadth of the album is impressive, it lacks the depth to ascend to greatness. Some tracks are based on just one musical idea and it can be tricky to stretch that idea out over several minutes, especially when making music that takes time to ruminate rather than being fast and immediate. The main culprits in this instance are latter half numbers ‘Impeach Bandana’ and ‘Dreadnaught’, both of which wear thin towards the end and struggle to retain the quality displayed in the middle third of the record.
Nevertheless, God Alone have avoided the usual side-project pitfalls. Rather than simply taking a straightforward jaunt through the trappings of another genre they have opted to create something different and personal with more than enough substance to elevate itself beyond being a mere curiosity.