The Jaws of Life
More than a decade has passed since the height of emo rock in the mainstream, but now a renaissance of the emo bands of yore has brought life back into the genre. Except for Pierce the Veil, a band still riding the coattails of a genre that has expired past its prime.
Pierce the Veil made waves during the late 2000s and performed on the Warped Tour circuit, and in 2012 it would have its biggest hit, “King for a Day,” which brought the band more fans. However, the emo scene during this time was fading away from punk rock and more toward an indie sound which makes its older albums sound late to the punch. After the band’s 2016 album, “Misadventures,” multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by the drummer and founder, Mike Fuentes, were brought forward and he left the band shortly after. Seven years since their last album, Pierce the Veil has released their new album, “The Jaws of Life.”
Most emo bands suffer from a condition that Pierce the Veil is no exception of. The band has some solid if not great instrumentation and musical chops. However, the punk singing that goes on top can be so unpolished that it’s annoying and the lyrics can get edgy that it undercuts any good the band brings forward. The opener, “Death Of An Executioner,” is supposedly about a drag race gone wrong, but the lyrics sound like a twelve-year-old boy writing an English assignment. “Cigarettes on a dark, bent highway / Follow you from a distance like / Demons in a death machine.” Even after a multi-decade career in making music, the lead singer and lyricist, Vic Fuentes, is still writing for the same 13–16 age demographic.
The song, “Even When I’m Not With You,” is the best example of Pierce the Veil’s horrendous lyrical abilities. The lyrics are weird, vague and as dark as your little cousin’s Twitter account, removing the listener from any momentum the band could create. “Red lip’d Snow White / Sipping beer through a straw real slow / I had a perfect high / Lip-locked in a bathroom stall.” The lyrics don’t come off as cool or edgy; it’s just corny.
Other than the lyrics, the album itself is fine. The best moments are when Pierce the Veil breaks its formulas and tries something new or turns down the edgy lyrics to a solid four. “Shared Trauma” sounds like a Twenty One Pilots song circa 2015, and it provides a nice touch of maturity to the album. The titular track sounds like a Jimmy Eat World b-side while Fuentes sings about being stuck in life (just like Jimmy Eat World indeed). And these tracks showcase Pierce the Veil’s biggest problem: The band intentionally keeps lurking in far superior bands shadows rather than treading their own path.
Every moment of greatness on this LP, there is a moment of disappointment or cringe that will come to bring balance to the universe. The incredible guitar performance on the bridge of “Flawless Execution” must be balanced with the blandest guitar riff of 2023 on “12 Fractures.” For every moment when Fuentes sings about issues that are mature and important, he must go back to the script with his teenage lyrics.
While other emo bands have emerged from their caves with new music, they tend to have brought something new to the front. Paramore brought a post-punk slant that is in line with today’s sound, Fall Out Boy has perfected the art of writing pop rock love songs and My Chemical Romance’s new song is the exact sound that Pierce the Veil strived for on this album.
Let “The Jaws of Life” be a reminder that emo never died, it’s just that the scene grew up. The day Fuentes and company finally decide to stop writing the soundtrack to seventh grade is the day that hell freezes over, but their older discography will have a special place in the few who know their music got them through the early days of adolescence.