Album Review: PVRIS – All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
[Rise; 2017]
Rating: 5.5/10

Key Tracks: “Walk Alone”, “Same Soul”, “Anyone Else”

Three years after their poppy debut album White Noise, the alternative-pop trio PVRIS returns with a darker sophomore album, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. While not completely abandoning their electronic landscape, this album features more rock elements compared to White Noise. Inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, the title, and its meaning serves as the backbone of the band’s shift in sound and the album’s overarching theme: accepting the good, the bad and the ugly of yourself. This album is an honest introspection of vocalist Lynn Gunn, facing a horizon of emotions including love, anxiety and despair.

The album starts off dramatically with Gunn’s heart-aching cry in “Heaven”. In this track, Gunn expresses regret after a relationship that robbed her self-esteem and happiness by emphasizing the line: “You took my heaven away.” That being said, Gunn refers to herself as “heaven” after discovering that she cannot be happy without putting her well-being first in a distressing relationship. Additionally, this expands on the meaning and the title of the album.

The tracks get darker, but the lyrics become more genuine. In tracks like “Half” and “What’s Wrong”, Gunn revisits her past experiences and confronts them face first. “What’s Wrong” has perhaps the most “edgy” yet memorable line on the album: “Don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable.” These songs are not happy or uplifting; they are rather liberating. Gunn’s soaring vocals provide the songs with more impact by giving a sense of vulnerability and consequently, redemption. “Walk Alone” is another personal reflection on anxiety and self-doubt that emerge from love and relationships. This track is somewhat reminiscent of their previous sound in White Noise and is a great bop with a catchy drum beat.

There is still light in the dark, however; “Same Soul” and “Winter” deviate from the dark atmosphere of the album, easing up the emotional tension. Although these songs are still compelling and powerful, they stand out more compared to the rest of the album for having a relaxing, chill vibe. If you’re not enjoying the album’s direction, these songs might make it up for you.

Gunn’s vocals and lyrics are more empowering than ever, but this album loses points for its lackluster instrumentals. This album shows very little progress in its instrumentations except for the fact that they resemble a darker, rock-oriented sound. The instrumentals do just enough to provide a backdrop for Gunn’s vocals, having no additional specialty or structure. In addition, some songs can feel out of place with the album’s overall dark atmosphere, which gives a “push-and-pull” feeling of bipolarity at times.

Overall, however, PVRIS is in transition—they are in the process of maturing and finding their sound, and All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is a milestone for their development. White Noise built a great musical foundation for the band, but All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is PVRIS showing audacity as musicians: opening up to different realms of music, while also opening up to themselves.

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