Album Review: Pierce The Veil – The Jaws of Life

By Nicholas Kobe, Contributor

[Fearless Records; 2023]

Rating 5/10

Key Tracks: “Death of an Executioner“, “The Jaws of Life”,So Far So Fake

San Diego rock band Pierce The Veil are a group that feels both surprisingly old and young at the exact same time. Formed in 2006, the band has been kicking for almost 20 years, and we’re over 10 years from what is considered their peak, 2012’s Collide With The Sky. However, the band has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years. The biggest hit, “King For A Day” featuring Kellin Quinn from Sleeping with Sirens, returned as a TikTok trend late in 2022. Since then, the wave of pop-punk revival is proving to be the perfect breeding ground for their contemporaries to return with new music while riding the wave of nostalgia. All that being said, it has been since 2016’s Misadventures since we heard from Pierce The Veil. The question is: can The Jaws of Life reestablish their position in the alternative music scene?

Read more: Album Review: Parannoul – After the Magic

The first thing to focus on is what has changed. Even though I am not intimately familiar with Pierce The Veil’s discography, it’s clear that The Jaws of Life has taken a good bit of edge off the band’s sound. While there are heavier moments to be had on this record, most of them come in the form of instrumental breakdowns.

Many of the songs feature more pleasant riffs, versus the more dissonant ones you’d hear on songs such as “A Match into Water” or “Hell Above”. More intense songs make up some of the highlights of this album, such as “Death of an Executioner” and “So Far So Fake”. When they happen, they are really good. Unfortunately, they are not the norm on this album. A strong portion of The Jaws of Life is ballads, such as “Even When I’m Not with You” “Emergency Contact” and “Shared Trauma.” I think many of them are fairly good, but a ballad-heavy rock record runs the risk of being slow paced, and this record certainly is.

The vocals are, for the most part, the trademark nasally singing of Vic Fuentes. In the hierarchy of “nasally emo boys”, Vic is nowhere near the worst of them. Sometimes, it is to his detriment on some of the more sentimental moments of the album, but what I really miss from him here is the screaming. Going back to listen to the band’s earlier work to prepare for this review, I found myself very impressed with his screaming voice, something that is all but absent from The Jaws of Life. In terms of lyricism, there is a certain melodrama that this style of “emo” bands are thought to have – this is certainly here in spades. Sometimes this leads to some really fantastic and meaningful lines, but sometimes, you get a few that are unintentionally funny. “Emergency Contact” is a prime example of some of these more ridiculous lines and takes the cake for most ridiculous chorus. For the most part, the lyrics are serviceable enough if you’re not listening too hard, but the more you dig, the worse they get. 

Just like a lot of albums from well-loved bands, The Jaws of Life is a lesson in expectations. If you go into the record expecting some more pop-punk leaning alt rock with a sprinkling of heavier moments, as I did, you will be reasonably pleased. If you go into this record, however, looking for a heavier experience like past releases, you are far more likely to be disappointed. I’m sure that, had I been a Pierce The Veil fan, I would have been much more disappointed by the sound of this record. As someone who frequents their music less, though, I came out of The Jaws of Life having enjoyed a good portion of these songs, including some that will remain in rotation for a good while. The record, however, even at 45 minutes, is a little bogged down by its slower moments and lack of lyrical inspiration. The record varies from “actually really good” to just “pretty boring,” but considering that it rarely dips into “actively bad,” it is still a triumph. Perhaps it is not everyone’s cup of tea from start to finish, but I think there are enough good songs here that you can throw the ones you like on a playlist and not completely hate yourself listening to the rest.

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