DED – School of Thought (Album Review)

When they made their 2017 debut, DED had an “Anti-Everything” attitude. Have they held onto that scrappy Punk spirit for their sophomore release? We finally get a chance to judge for ourselves when their highly-anticipated School of Thought arrives digitally on Friday, October 15, 2021 via Suretone Records. A physical release is set to follow on November 19th.

People mature; beliefs might not change but our need to scream them out loud mellows. DED is no different. With the passing of four years, the quartet—Vocalist Joe Cotela, Guitarist Adam Adamcik, Bassist Kyle Koelsch, and Drummer Matt Reinhard—has evolved from thick Nu Metal influences that proudly waved a sonic “FMFY” middle finger toward a more refined cynicism. Much as 2017’s Mis•an•thrope sought to provoke, School of Thought inspires discussion of false idols, willful ignorance, mental health, and begs listeners to stop making stupid people famous. However, it is also quick to acknowledge that sometimes, amid our world’s violent noise, we speak loudest when we say nothing at all.

Produced by Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Papa Roach), the 11-song collection has already been previewed, in part, over the past year. Therefore, it should be no shock to listeners that DED has burned their white-out contact lenses (thank god!) and evolved their sound. So while you might have been able to make the case that their debut was Nu Metal, School of Thought is a new beast.

It all begins with album opener, rocker “Ghost,” an attention-grabbing earworm that sets the stage for current single/video, the haunting “Kill Beautiful Things.” A track that can be used as a springboard into so many discussions, from the devolving state of human interactions to the destruction of our planet, it’s an inspired offering that is not afraid to admit that, in our frantic search for the numbness necessary to survive in 2021, we are often the killers of good things. We are deaf, dumb, blind, and unable to accept that, oftentimes, we are our own worst enemies.

So what beauty in our world is truly worth saving? Love—for the families we are born into and the ones we make for ourselves. That said, you should not expect a ballad when “Love Song” rolls around: instead, it’s a languid, sludgy cover of The Cure’s 1989 hit single “Lovesong,” one that features In This Moment’s Maria Brink. Though she out-screams her beau, there’s something to be said for a quartet who can hold their own when Mother takes the stage.

Released in 2020, “Eyes Sewn Shut,” “A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby),” and “Parasite” should be familiar to fans. The first is an explosive banger that steps back to reflect on the ongoing epidemic of willful ignorance, while “Parasite” earns the title of one of the heaviest offerings on School of Thought. “A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby),” which has a divine acoustic version that should be heard, sets itself apart as being one of the most intelligently done tracks, playing with words to call to mind a certain surreality TV competition. Beyond its thick KoЯn influence, the track condemns false idols and asks listeners to step back and consider the character of those that they choose to support.

With this idea reverberating through your consciousness, DED does not pause before slamming into the second half of School of Thought. Here, crushing earworm “Persona” takes on the talking heads and their fake facades, while “10 Minutes Underwater” and “Lost” throw it back to the band’s earlier days. The former challenges “Parasite” for most blistering offering on the record, though the album’s heavy closer (“Lost”) shows the most range.

Amidst this chaos, they stop to offer a grooving nod toward family on “My Blood (My Family),” which focuses its spotlight on Cotela’s matured vocal abilities. Equally powerful and just as important, topically speaking, is “Half Alive,” whose pounding rhythms explore mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Many listeners will be able to find themselves inside its lyrics,  and though it doesn’t close the LP, “Lost” has that honor, it adds a heartfelt embrace for those who are struggling.

When the last note has been sung, School of Thought, apropos of its title, asks listeners to make conscious decisions and ‘be the change,’ avoid dissociating into numbness despite any misanthropic tendencies, and pick and choose battles wisely. In and of itself, all of this food for thought packaged as a blistering earworm would be impressive. But when you add in the fact that the band has taken an enormous leap forward, sonically, School of Thought feels more like the hard-won reckoning of a fifth album than a sophomoric release. It represents a band who has lovingly embraced all of their harsh edges and soft corners, and have something worthwhile to say, too. As it cements the Arizonians as a powerful force in today’s heavy music scene, Cryptic Rock gives DED’s School of Thought 5 of 5 stars.


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