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With their glorious and melancholic second LP, ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell‘, PVRIS have delivered a body of work that’s finally worthy of their immense hype; proof that they’re not a band to fuck with. And I say that as someone who wasn’t all convinced that PVRIS even had it in them for such a grand record.
For me, this American trio’s debut album, 2014’s so-so ‘White Noise’, was very middle-of-the-road. It felt like a mere flash-in-the-pan release, one that seemed like the Massachusetts group was simply capitalizing on current trends because that’s what would sell well or at the very least, be received decently by media and punters alike. Which, as it funnily turns out, both of those outcomes happened, allowing PVRIS to exist on the incredibly strong platform they now stand upon.
Expectedly so, ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ follows on from and expands their stadium-sized alternative rock/electro-pop sound from their first album. (Even if the latter sounds cut through more here). However, thankfully, they’ve taken their debut’s songwriting, dynamics, and instrumentation and pushed them to a far more consistent, potent extreme here. Musically and instrumentally speaking, this second record isn’t that much of a far cry from its predecessor, but it’s one that leaves it’s older sibling for dead. It really does seem like returning to producer Blake Harnage has brought the very best out of this band the second time around.
‘All We Know Of Heaven…‘ is also a much more “real” record. Sure, there’s still plenty of creepy sonic layers, spacious effects, and samples used throughout to help craft the band’s dark and textured soundscapes. Yet there’s this warmer, human touch present in the song timbres, Lynn “Gunn” Gunnulfsen’s powerful vocals and her honest-as-fuck lyrics, as well as the album’s overall tone, with ‘All We Know Of Heaven…‘ dripping in heartfelt personal drama and emotional highs and lows. (Well, mainly lows, though – sad records are often the best records, after all).
I think this darker tone and this deeper, clearly defined change in their music has come from the young trio extensively touring since ‘White Noise‘ catapulted them right up the musical ladder; in them seeing much more of our world outside their native U.S.; in their personal relationships ending or maybe even evolving; and in them growing through and out of their early twenties. And it’s accumulated in PVRIS creating their best release to date, a work of art that’s deeper, sexier, moodier; one that simply features better songs with stronger staying power and higher memorability.
Song wise, there are a few clear hits here, such as the lyrically angry opener ‘Heaven‘, the self-aware and no-bullshit cut of ‘What’s Wrong‘, as well as the romanticly bittersweet yet empowering ‘Anyone Else‘, all of which land within the first half of this record’s tracklisting. However, that could never stop later tracks like the angsty ‘Same Soul‘ being one hell of a fiery pop-song, nor could it prevent the faster, edgier ‘No Mercy‘ from whipping up a real rhythmic storm or ‘Separate‘ from being a defiant anti-ballad. And that’s not even counting my personal pick, the melodically eerie and guitar-driven second song, ‘Half‘ and it’s touchingly sublime chorus; a chorus that have never once left my head since I first heard the song a few weeks back.
Again much like ‘White Noise‘, PVRIS’s reverberant drums are matched with snappy electronic percussions that shift between their love of rock music as well as their obvious pop sensibilities – something I don’t think will ever leave their sound. So too do their oceanic synths and widescreen atmospherics remain, as well as the clean, delay-ridden ambient guitars of Alex Babinski, both working away on the sides and far-off distance of these compositions to create a mammoth sense of space. The low-end is also tight and deliciously smooth, as bassist Brian MacDonald (and the clearly present synth-basses) never once come to dominate these mixes but they also never feel forgotten about, hitting a perfect mid-point in the process.
Rounding out the trio is, of course, Gunnulfsen, who sounds as impressive and as passionate as ever, with the young woman’s vocal delivery reaching a whole new peak. So too do her lyrics, which nearly altogether ditch the ghost-metaphors that weaved across ‘White Noise‘ as her lyrics range from the bitterly angry (‘Heaven‘, ‘No Mercy‘), the cynical and the self-aware (‘What’s Wrong‘, ‘Nola 1‘) the lovesick and romantically downtrodden (‘Separate‘, ‘Same Soul‘, ‘Anyone Else‘). These songs are all interconnected pieces, layered together from the singer’s personal thoughts, her recent experiences, and her own inner demons. Sometimes revealing themselves on one track only to show up on another, as Gunn not-so-subtly hums out the chorus melody to ‘What’s Wrong‘ at the end of each chorus in the gorgeously intimate closer, ‘Nola 1‘; linking up two separate pieces to the wider life story of emotional closure and self-betterment being told here.
After all, this record’s intention is exactly the action that PVRIS’s three members are portraying on the album’s front cover – looking back at their own reflections in the murky water, lost in their own inner thoughts and feelings. Something that listeners may find themselves also partaking in if these captivating electro-pop tunes can even remotely dig their way into your mind. And honestly, personal introspection has rarely sounded this damned good!
‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ could have been the sound of a band unsure of what to do when the world and an often caustic, destructive industry turns their prying eyes and hands upon them. But instead of stumbling under the immense pressure, PVRIS have stepped up to the plate and then some. They’ve produced a record that captures the very best parts of their established alternative rock-meets-pop-meets-electronic mixture; shaping each element into a sexier, darker, deeper 40-minute listening experience. ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ is meant for lonely late night drives through an empty yet well-lit sprawling city; it’s a record that follows you through a dark, half-empty club like an ominous rain cloud; it’s a record that meant for one’s most solitude nights; and it’s a record that’s also meant for those crushing moments of heartbreak.
This will also be THE album that will take PVRIS out of the support tour roles and into bold headlining positions; this is the album that will take them out of the here-today, gone-tomorrow Warped Tour scenes and into the world of long-lasting household names; this is the album that shows exactly what PVRIS are capable of.
3. Anyone Else
4. What’s Wrong
5. Walk Alone
6. Same Soul
8. No Mercy
10. Nola 1
‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ is out now through Rise Records. Pick it up here.