Album Review: Pierce the Veil – The Jaws of Life (2023 LP)

California punk-rock trio Pierce the Veil have returned with their awaited fifth studio album The Jaws of Life, out today via Fearless Records. The 12-track project comes seven years after their 2016 record Misadventures, the first new music since the Today I Saw the Whole World EP in 2017.

Featuring the singles “Pass the Nirvana”, “Emergency Contact” and “Even When I’m Not With You”, The Jaws of Life explores themes of identity, love, loss, mental health struggles and societal pressures. The album was produced by Paul Meany (Twenty One Pilots, Mutemath) and mixed by Adam Hawkins (Machine Gun Kelly, Turnstile).

Frontman Vic Fuentes’ glossy vocals and the poppy production cut through the grungy guitars and occasional screams they refuse to abolish altogether. Similarly, the bubbly melodies and tongue-in-cheek lyrics cleverly keep the heavy subject matter digestible and fun to hear. Renowned for their unique blend of singalong hooks and edgy riffs, guitarist Tony Perry and drummer Jaime Preciado bring as much energy as they do creativity.

Upbeat opener “Death of an Executioner” was written for the emo dancefloor, with glittery synths and four-to-the-floor kicks surely making it a soon-to-be live staple. Next up, the chunky riffs and harsh screams of “Pass the Nirvana” should hook you if the former doesn’t. A standout on the album, the dirty bass and stomping grooves of the chorus will go down well in a mosh pit. It seems odd to follow this with slow jam “Even When I’m Not with You”, which sounds like it should be later in the album, but the spacious programming drives the song toward a vibrant climax to keep it interesting.

“Emergency Contact” picks the pace up again with layered guitars over steady drums and simple verses, making for a nice pop-punk tune ready for radio. Sandwiching all three singles in the first third of the album may leave the listener apprehensive for the quality of the remaining tracks, however the band manages to offer new ideas and different sounds as it progresses. “Flawless Execution” channels Radiohead vibes, both sonically and lyrically, before the album’s title track which discusses the duality of self in a humorous light.

In the second half of the record, “Damn the Man, Save the Empire” is more conventional Pierce the Veil with its catchy harmonies, distorted melodies and lyrical sarcasm. Deep cut “Resilience” begins with a Dazed and Confused sample, saying “If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself”, which sets the tone for the whole album. The interlude “Irrational Fears” features cheery orchestral music and a flight attendant explaining the safety procedures before take-off, a fitting segway to the next track.

“Shared Trauma” could almost pass for a lo-fi remix of a Crown the Empire song, with delicate piano, dusty beats and processed vocals. Nearing the end of the record, “So Far So Fake” is another memorable moment with a brooding guitar melody and huge chorus that lures you in from the start. Perhaps the most energetic track on here, it’s a wonder why this and “Even When I’m Not with You” didn’t trade places in the tracklisting. Finally, stripped closer “12 Fractures” featuring Chloe Moriondo rides out the album with muted guitar, tambourine and washed-out percussion behind soft duet vocals.

Overall, the way that Pierce the Veil approach their songwriting is unique and attractive while maintaining their signature pop-core sound. The Jaws of Life is a solid addition to their compelling catalogue and well worth the wait all these years. The band will be embarking on a six-date Mexico/South America tour this March and April to celebrate the release (you can get your tickets HERE).

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