Why The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me speaks to me in ways few albums/art ever have.
The Long Island, New York alternative rock band, Brand New, has been incredibly influential in their highly energetic, ever-changing, nuanced niche as pioneers in the music genre of emo-rock ever since their conception in late 2000. From their first live concert up until this very day, the band is so popular that some of their concerts have sold out within mere minutes of tickets being available to the general public. The question naturally arises from avid fans and music critics alike, what is it precisely that makes Brand New as popular as they are? The answer may not be so simple; while some fans may point to the band’s use of robust musical technique, others may state that the band’s reception is contingent upon the content of their lyricism with thought provoking allusions, vivid imagery, as well as controversial subject matter. Be this as it may, the success of Brand New as an emo-rock band remains perplexing. In no album does Brand New showcase their talents as strongly as in their third full length album, “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” or TDAGARIM.
Released on November 20th, 2006, the album TDAGARIM was met with instant success; shortly thereafter, the album received an impressive role on the Rolling Stone’s Top Emo Albums of All Time, furthering the band’s credibility as not only a highly-esteemed band, but also a legitimate band at that. The album showcased front-man, Jesse Lacey’s talent as a highly lyrical, highly emotional lead singer, yet again demonstrating to fans of the genre that emo-rock was ever-changing and was to remain a prevalent style of music. With this new album came a new phenomenon, however; when Brand New released the album on vinyl, the album sold almost instantly. Even today, TDAGARIM remains a highly sought after album. Many fans and vinyl collectors alike desperately thrive to add “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” to their collections. This sort of merchandise popularity was something entirely new to Brand New and even most emo-rock bands as the desire to own physical copies of the music had never once been as strong as it had with “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”. Part of the album’s success could very easily be attributed to the ominous album cover of the record. Depicting a young unassuming girl standing at the foreground of a shanty house and two masked-reaper like men conversing, this album cover remains mysterious in its nature. With interpretation of the lyricism, stark subject matter, and sheer emotional undertone presented in “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” itself, it becomes evident that the image used as album art is poised to evoke a strong sense of fleeting innocence being stolen abruptly through the image’s use of symbolic representation and metaphor.
To truly understand this album artwork and its unique message, it is imperative to recognize the role of the tragic accident of 7 year-old Katie Flynn in inspiring Brand New to incorporate the image as the cover for the record. On July 3rd, 2005, a 7-year-old girl who was to be the flower girl at a wedding was driving to the venue in a limousine. Shortly thereafter, the young girl, Katie Flynn, along with the limousine driver were hit in a brutal collision caused by a drunk driver. Katie’s mother driving behind the limousine, described an outright unspeakable scene. She stated, “As I crawled out of the car, the only thing that was left of Kate was her head…And I took her, just that, and sat on the side of the Meadowbrook and watched at the horrendousness going on around me”. The loss of a human being in this manner, let alone a daughter, in such gruesome a manner is unfathomable. Brand New was able to recapitulate just this sentiment with the album cover of “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” as the accident of young Kate occurred on Meadowbrook Highway just minutes from the band’s hometown of Levittown.
The kairos underlying the image subsequently becomes clear; Brand New utilized the dreadful context of Kate’s accident in their album art. By incorporating a young girl in the foreground of the image, Brand New was in fact paying homage to young Kate through the symbol of yet another young girl. Furthermore, the presentation of the girl herself in the image, suggests subtle, but strong pathos. The young girl in the image is striking in the image. While the rest of the image is morose and decrepit (the chipped paint, the broken window shutter, the two masked men, etc.), the young girl’s bright blonde hair simultaneously seems bold, but out of place. A parallel may even be drawn to the scene of the accident itself and the album artwork; in both there is a clear symbol of young innocence cast into a scene of great dread. In the accident, all that remained of poor Kate amidst the destruction of the accident was her own head while in the image, the only bright beacon in the image is the symbol of the young girl. Given this information, it seems as if Brand New intended for the album to elicit an uneasy emotional response in its viewers; utilizing natural protective feelings for children, viewers of the album artwork are forced to ask themselves what the young girl is doing in the image. It is only logical then, for viewers to question the role of the two masked men conversing in the background of the image.
To comprehend the logos behind the masked men in the image, the role of the accident, precisely that of the drunk driver, must be scrutinized even further. Brand New’s attitude towards the drunk driver who caused the tragic accident surfaces time and time again throughout the lyrics of TDAGARIM. In earlier tracks in the album, lead singer Jesse Lacey makes mention of various “demons” linked to the act of “drinking n’ driving”. Through his lyrics, it is evident that Lacey rightly holds the drunk driver responsible for the death of young Katie. This reiterates the statement Katie Flynn’s mother, Jennifer Flynn, provided in an interview where she simply stated, “Drunk driving did this to us [the Flynn family]…”. As the album progresses, Lacey’s sentiment begins to further align with all of the accountability and anger Jennifer Flynn experiences after the loss of her daughter. In one of the most conveying and brilliant lyrics of the album, Lacey sings the following in one of the final tracks of the album titled “Limousine”:
Hey, you beauty supreme, yeah, you were right about me. But can I get myself out from underneath this guilt that will crush me. And in the choir, I saw our sad Messiah. He was bored and tired of my laments, said, ‘I died for you one time, but never again’
In this line, Lacey assumes the role of the drunk driver who hit the limousine. The pathos here is straightforward; the driver is consumed by the inescapable guilt of ending the life of young Katie Flynn. According to Lacey, the accident took such a psychological toll on the drunk driver such that he hallucinates of images of the Messiah. Lacey goes even a step further to state that the driver shall not be forgiven for his negligence in the haunting quotation echoed in the last line of the verse. This pathos is carried over into the album cover. The masked men in the foreground of the image may represent the internal demons of the drunk driver. These demons, as are mentioned throughout the album, led the driver to drink as a self-destructive coping mechanism. Ultimately it is these metaphorical demons that rob the Flynn family of their daughter. Upon examination of the album cover, it looks as though the masked demons are to approach the young girl upon conspiring; this is an abstract metaphor for the drunk driver, who presumably consulted his own demons through drinking before driving drunk and finally taking Kate’s life. Brand New’s definitive reasoning or logos behind the image is chilling as the drunk driver is akin to actual demons, entities that are not otherwise forgiven just as was stated in the final lyrics of “Limousine”.
This evocative final message was no doubt intended by the Brand New in utilizing the image for their cover of “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”. Through rhetorical appeals, most notably those of logos and pathos, Brand New presents a romantic yet morose perspective on the tragic accident of Katie Flynn. Although the lyricism of “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” may speak for itself, the message behind the album cover is just as strong. The art intends to present a terrifying yet inescapable conflict between internal demons. Brand New demonstrates that all may have the propensity to conduct evil behavior. The fact that occasionally, such forces may prevail as is the case of this tragedy, is even more unsettling.