DED stormed into the heavy scene in 2017 with their album Misanthrope, a heavy record with a lot of unique elements that stand out from the pack with intense riffs, a rap-like style with the lyrics and over the top hooks. Four years later, DED is back with School of Thought, showing an incredible transformation and adding several layers to an already strong foundation. Still boasting engaging hooks that are sure to get stuck in your head, DED has added focus to the clean and heavy vocals of frontman Joe Cotela and have truly stepped onto another level of heavy on this album.
“Ghost” is a great track to kick off the album. The song opens up with chanting vocals that are catchy and reoccur throughout. The bass line that runs through the back of the track is strong with a high level of distortion. The song has a slower pace to it, and almost feels like its holding back while it builds, adding to the heaviness of the breakdown. “Kill Beautiful Things” is highlighted by a snappy guitar riff that moves freely instead of just running straight. The breakdown has a crushing, low bass tone that builds to the first aggressive vocals of the effort, which honestly built so much anticipation, especially since it backed down into clean vocals for the last chorus which was much heavier.
Next up is a cover of “Love Song,” originally by The Cure. Though not credited on the advance, I instantly picked up the guest vocal from Maria Brink, which caught grabbed my attention. The song was eerie and dark, taking a slower approach but coming in incredibly heavy at times. The vocal contrast between Cotela and Brink was nothing short of incredible and added a truly haunting feel to a classic song. The build-up at the end, with Brink hitting that signature wail (followed up by the most intense whisper) is as chill-inducing as it gets. “Eyes Sewn Shut” was one of the early singles from the album and I had been familiar with it for awhile. This is a track that I can see being a huge moment at a live show. It starts with a clean vocal melody over a piano and explodes into the first over the top heavy moment of the album. The verse is amazing, with a clean melody that has brief moments of an aggressive explosion, leading into a Slipknot-esque, brutal riff. The chorus is really engaging and very catchy- the melody is stuck in my head each time I hear it.
“A Mannequin Idol” has been around as a single for about a year, and this song definitely holds up and earns its spot on the album. I always thought the title was a play on American Idol. The lyrics definitely seem like a play on the age-old Hollywood tactic (not just the previously mentioned show), leaning into looks and ignoring talent. It has aggressive moments and a chorus that makes you want to sing along. “Parasite” is one of the highlights of the album. The song is heavy and the dark and the raw vocals stand out for me here. This is another track that has the industrial, mechanical feel of a throwback Slipknot track. The build to the breakdown feels almost manic and when the heavy break hits, it’s easily one of the highlights of the album.
“Persona” is another intense track that grabbed my attention from the onset. The riff that kicks it off is heavy and engaging. I wouldn’t call it a rap, but the lyrics come fast and have a completely different feel. This is one of the more upbeat songs on the record. The breakdown gets heavy, but still samples the melody from the chorus in an almost playful way. This track is unique and a welcome change at the midpoint of the album.
“My Blood” is a big track, the melody of the vocals is so engaging and highlight the range and skill that Cotela has. The song has a massive anthemic feel to it and is an ode to family. There’s a lot of raw emotion throughout. The breakdown is just another unique moment with adventurous percussion twists and intermixed a capella vocals. I knew I was going to love “10 Minutes Underwater” in the first 10 seconds. The song starts off with a scream out of nowhere and then a heavy wall of sound. The song leans on a heavy bass riff to transition from laid back clean vocals to aggressive vocals (still clean but more in your face). The chorus won’t let its grip loosen up as the song flips back and forth between melodic and intense.
“Half Alive” seriously hits from the beginning. There’s a special moment in the introduction where all of the instruments hit at the same time, and this run appears several times throughout the track both in the verse and the transitions. One of the coolest moments is leading up to the chorus when the vocals hit a high octave on the word “help.” The breakdown is one of the heaviest from the effort and is an intense climax before winding down to the last chorus. The final track on the record is “Lost,” and is exactly what I’ve been waiting for in the build that has been the entire record. It’s heavy from the start and doesn’t give way. the track showcases everything I love about DED — there’s a little of the rap-like style in the verse, solid clean and raw vocals and a heavy riff that drives the song. The chorus of this song is amazing — an over the top anthem and an exceptional end to an extraordinary album.
School of Thought is equipped with intense riffs, larger than life hooks and a unique style that will appeal to longtime fans and newcomers alike. The album is a welcome evolution and is sure to get a lot of visibility to the talented quartet from Arizona. Make sure to check out School of Thought, available now via Suretone Records!