Frank Iero is back with his third solo album, performing with new band The Future Violents. Barriers is a reinvention of sorts for the former My Chemical Romance guitarist, featuring fourteen tracks that all circle around the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Inspired in part by a 2016 Sydney car accident that left Iero, bandmate Evan Nestor, and manager Paul Clegg hospitalised, Barriers aims to run a rather ambitious emotional gamut. Of the tracks, Iero says:
“This is the first batch of songs I’ve written since having that near-death experience. And when you face death, there’s a very definite moment where you ask yourself, ‘Okay, did reality kind of just split off? Am I truly here or am I not?’ So a lot of what you’re hearing in these songs is me questioning if I’m actually alive or is this all just a figment of my imagination.”
Opening with “A New Day’s Coming” is an interesting choice, a bluesy and almost gospel-like start to an album that is otherwise very much rooted in the emo and punk genres likely expected from Iero. That it began life as a lullaby for his kids comes as no surprise – there’s a glorious sing-a-long quality to this hopeful and uplifting opener…
“The Host” is another standout, a track that feels straight out of late 90s emo, the era of Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity, and the rise of the likes of Saves the Day and The Get Up Kids, while “Young and Doomed” and the brilliantly fierce “Moto Pop” clamour loudly for well-deserved attention.
There’s a theatrical quality to Iero’s voice throughout, bouncing from screaming punk vocals to the heartfelt howling of penultimate track “Six Feet Down Under”. While he’s not about to win any singing contests, there’s power and emotion behind every word, and, honestly, that’s really what it’s all about, especially when you’re putting together an album full of lyrics that emo kids everywhere (long since grown up or otherwise) will be scrawling everywhere.
If there’s complaint to be made, it’s that the inherently garage band sound of the genres Frank Iero and The Future Violents sit so comfortably in do seem to struggle in a studio setting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – it screams authenticity, if nothing else – but there’s a collision of rough and smooth that never quite settles down or finds its groove.
That being said, this is an album that just begs to be heard live, as those vibrant punk roots fight against the constraints of studio production. Expect ears to be ringing at the very thought of encountering any of these tracks as they’re meant to be experienced – live, loud, and surrounded by people screaming every word.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Frank Iero and the Future Violents’ Barriers is out now, through UNFD.