It is quite astonishing when a band achieves stardom and the tag of “the next big thing” in rock music within the framework of a debut album; but there is a reason PVRIS’ first effort ‘White Noise’ was critically acclaimed by the press and fans alike. It was a record comprised of massive alt rock/pop songs with a strong emphasis on synthesisers and gloomy undertones. The record sported sensational vocals from front-woman Lynn Gunn across singles such as ‘St. Patrick’, ‘My House’ and ‘Fire’ and launched the band into the live sphere with the warped tour, support slots with Bring Me The Horizon and headline runs of their own on the back end of the record cycle. The bands’ success certainly felt like a cult movement within their own blend of dark and light comparable to the rise of HIM back in the early noughties. Despite the bands clear intention of commercial success and stadium filling choruses, the record had a few moments that faltered only in comparison to its sturdy singles.
Striking whilst the iron is hot; the band return with a second full length release that is far more consistent in its pace and its moody aesthetic. Recorded in a converted ‘haunted’ church in upstate New York, the production here feels like the upgrade from an art house indie movie to a blockbuster Hollywood outing; the conventional efforts of drums, bass, guitars and vocals are still present however, the textures are far subtler and varied giving each level of instrumentation room to breathe, resulting in ten massive pop sound-scapes. From opening track and lead single ‘Heaven’ it is noticeable that the distorted guitars are less present throughout this record; instead focusing on drawn out cleans and dousing almost every detail in reverb – the result is an incredibly widescreen resonance that serves the bands capability to match imagery to sound with theatrical flair. Lynn’s vocal delivery here is a breath taking blend of solemn and angelic during the verses before she soars “you took my heaven away” throughout the choruses, painting the details of a toxic relationship. Lynn recently won the ‘best vocalist award’ at the APMAs (Alternative Music Press Awards) and it is present here why she is so highly regarded as the control of her vocal range is flawless across these ten tracks and serve as one of the bands biggest draws. The subtle snarls she uses leading into each line of the chorus of ‘Half’ is distinctly recognisable as her own, and is one of the most infectious vocal melodies on the album.
Whilst it is important to recognise that this album leans towards pop elements rather than sitting in the realm of rock; these songs are still heavy in scope and substance. For example the way in which Lynn repeatedly yells “I don’t belong to anyone else” on ‘Anyone Else’ and the furious “no I never sold my soul” on single ‘What’s Wrong’. It is a performance so full of character that it fully draws the listener in with full immersion and conviction. ‘What’s Wrong’ tackles the questioning of cynicism and the phenomenon of artists baring their soul on a page with unrelenting honesty; furthermore, the visuals for this track showcase Lynn being pulled around, with multiple references and symbolism to religious undertones and it’s multitude of subject matter. The visuals released for the singles thus far all draw from the eighteen hundreds in terms of the architecture shown, the Victorian inspired fashion and gothic undertones, they are themes that blend seamlessly through listening and viewing. Another consistent new addition throughout these ten tracks is the use of the harp that subtly creeps its way into the melodies or tails off the end of a track, aiding the seamless nature of this album as a listening experience.
Whilst at this point the band have firmly cemented their sound, there is also room for wider inspiration for example; the break beat nature of ‘Walk Alone’ which sees an emphasis on drummer Justin Nace’s efforts in an industrial manner, adding hip hop 808 bass undertones. There are also funk elements here such as bassist Brian Macdonald’s standout runs on ‘Heaven’ or the swung R‘n’B nature of ‘Winter’, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on the most recent The Weeknd record ‘Starboy’ yet all encapsulated with 80’s inspired synths under the umbrella of the PVRIS sound.
Although this record is consistent throughout in terms of tempo, ‘No Mercy’ feels like a call back to their debut album, incorporating a chord progression similar to ‘Fire’ and a stronger emphasis on distorted guitars and energy. It is a welcome change towards the end of the record that is sure to invoke energy in a live environment and become a set favourite. ‘Nola 1’ is a surprising closing track to the album as it incorporates vibrant synths and guitar melodies in a more positive manner and finishes abruptly, which is not the grand finale the record was alluding to; perhaps this hints towards future directions the band may take with some colour in their cheeks?
PVRIS are certainly a smart band with hefts of talent and acknowledgement of how to build a successful career. They have demonstrated through this record how to capitalise on their strengths and create a consistently brilliant record filled with lofty choruses built for soundtracks and large stages. They understand the importance of image and artistic direction within the current musical landscape and have brought a niche to the mainstream without losing an ounce of integrity. With an ongoing arena tour with Muse and 30 Seconds To Mars throughout 2017, it is clear where their potential is leading. I predict by the end of this record cycle PVRIS will be an arena band within their own right.
The bands seamlessly blend alt rock with dark pop in this consistently cinematic and catchy release.