Photo Credit: Celia Kenyon
From the very first moments of their newest album, the now-trio emo rockers Pierce the Veil want you to know this isn’t just another generic pop-punk revival album – an intense swirl of sirens reaches almost deafening heights, suggesting this is going to be an album that has more in common with Metallica than it does All Time Low or Machine Gun Kelly. Except, as with so many songs on the band’s newest LP The Jaws of Life, promises of grandeur made by “Death of An Executioner” go frustratingly unfulfilled. The arrangements quickly morph into uninspired alternative rock banality and lead vocalist Vic Fuentes proves unable to properly convey the darkness of the song’s blood and war imagery. The following “Pass The Nirvana” proves Fuentes’ vocal chops – with chilling screams of “give up, give up” – but once again, the song’s most compelling moment proves short-lived.
Even more unfortunately, these first two songs – with moments of promise, but ultimately unfulfilling – prove to be the album’s best. The following 10 tracks devolve into a sea of alternative rock and grunge blandness – rarely actively bad, but reliably unmemorable and without any tangible stakes. “Emergency Contact” is a series of Instagram-friendly motivational quotes in search of a higher meaning (“There’s no greater vengeance // Than learning to enjoy again”, “Therapy is tiring, but so is hiding how you feel”). The preceding “Even When I’m Not With You” is fine enough, but it lacks any meaningful peaks or valleys – resulting in one of a number of inessential additions to the tracklist.
As the album progresses, the band tries harder and harder to up the stakes and live up to their album title, but with no greater success. “Damn the Man, Save the Empire” is filled with supposedly dark imagery that is too detached from any central story-telling arc to actually be compelling. Its central refrain (“It’s odd that I keep running into spider webs”) falls flat. The Tumblr-esque nihilism of “Resilience” (“If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life // Remind me to kill myself”) reads as posturing at best, and deeply tasteless at worst.
The Jaws of Life is Pierce the Veil’s first album without drummer Mike Fuentes – who was accused of statutory rape in 2017. It’s admirable that the trio would attempt to forge ahead without him, but for an album born out of such adversity, it surprisingly never sounds particularly lived through. If your idea of good music simply boils down to lots of power chords and snarly vocals, you’ll surely get a kick out of The Jaws of Life. For the rest of us, the LP reads as just another generic alt-rock album – despite the band’s early efforts to convince us otherwise.