“It’s good to know that I’m the only one who can cut you further. What is love besides two souls trying to heal each other?”
“I can’t shine to save my life, but I’ll feel through the dark with you. I set fires ablaze inside and stepped into the light to blind you.”
After seven long years, Pierce the Veil is finally gearing up to release The Jaws of Life. The band’s fifth LP, out this week on Fearless Records, follows in the enormously successful footsteps of 2012’s Collide with the Sky and 2016’s Misadventures. These two albums have become staples in the post-hardcore landscape, vaulting Pierce the Veil into arenas and festival lineups all over the world. In the years that passed since 2016, hardcore, pop-punk, and emo have all seen a resurgence in popularity as a new generation of fans pour in. The Jaws of Life attempts to fit into this landscape by incorporating a wide array of stylistic elements—but the result comes off more like a disjointed mix of demos rather than a cohesive, finished product.
Anticipation reached a fever point late last year when “Pass the Nirvana” was released. At the time, the stand-alone track shed light on an interesting new era for the group. The song blends classic post-hardcore with touches of nu-metal both in the vocals and chunky bass chords. It swells into a hardcore riff worthy of an arena-sized circle pit, ending with frontman Vic Fuentes’ screaming the mantra, “I can’t hear you!”
Album opener “Death of an Executioner” stays true to classic Pierce the Veil, rotating waves of anthemic emo rock with hardcore breakdowns before transitioning into “Pass the Nirvana”. At this point in the record, things start to take a dramatic turn. PTV dedicates a solid chunk of the album to the pop-punk and emo end of the spectrum, with somewhat disappointing results.
The Jaws of Life soon loses all the momentum built up in the first two songs. “Even When I’m Not With You” is a ballad, with Fuentes singing over a trap-like beat as droning guitar synths and a slow clap push the track along. The song passes by without progressing much past where it started. “Emergency Contact” also keeps things slow, starting off with a mix of acoustic and electric guitar chords that clash and compete for the same space in the mix. The song takes on a pretty tame emo-rock vibe with a similar flat progression all the way through. The lull continues on “Flawless Execution”, another slow-burning emo ballad. The instrumentation swells in the second half but fizzles out before reaching any climactic moment.
Title track “The Jaws of Life” closes out a mixed first half. Here, Pierce the Veil composes a really interesting rock ballad featuring vocals and guitar hooks straight out of 1990s radio rock with the clearest instrumental mix on the record. The song focuses on the external forces that work against your own personal life progression, hinting at seasonal depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of intense loneliness. The title track, and other moments on the album, talk about these issues and the journey to escape from those “Jaws of Life”.
In the second half of the album, we never reach the raging hardcore veracity found on “Death of an Executioner” or “Pass the Nirvana”. Most tracks feel like alternate demos of the songs in the first half, making it hard to hold your attention all the way to the end. “So Far So Fake” stands out as the second-to-last song. It dives into 2000s post-rock with a darker sound design and more complex instrumentation. Plucky guitar arpeggios back the verses, the choruses feature driving post-rock guitars, and the song floats into a more psychedelic array of sporadic guitars and drums.
The Jaws of Life concludes with “12 Fractures” featuring singer/songwriter Chloe Moriondo. A sparse acoustic guitar and soft drum beat guide the duet between Fuentes and Moriondo, ending the album on quite the opposite note from where it began. While The Jaws of Life has some really compelling moments, it lacks the energy and fervor you expect from Pierce the Veil. “Death of an Executioner”, “Pass the Nirvana”, and “So Far So Fake” will undoubtedly become regulars in rotation with older material and blend seamlessly into the band’s live show. The slower emo and pop-punk songs, making up three-quarters of the album, unfortunately do not push any limits and melt into the noise of a saturated scene at the moment.
Stream it? Buy it? Skip it?: Stream it. Never miss out on hearing new music, but long-time fans will find this one disappointing.