Vic Fuentes, Tony Perry, and Jaime Preciado aka Pierce the Veil are back. The San Diego post-hardcore rockers returned with not just with their fist album in seven years but their first album without founding member and drummer, Mike Fuentes. The result is The Jaws of Life, another classic album that stays electric and riff-filled as ever but boasts a maturity and reflective element that makes the band sound as timeless as ever.
Flashback to 2005: two years before Pierce the Veil would drop their debut album, A Flair for the Dramatic. The setting is a booming post-hardcore/emo/alternative music setting that was singing with clenched eyes and fists along with Gerard Way. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland releases for Nintendo Gamecube, Playstation 2, and Xbox 360. Mohawks are slicing by everywhere you go. This was the world that Pierce the Veil was built on.
Songs like “Death of an Executioner” and the eponymous track “The Jaws of Life” cradle you in, and take off with a sonic boom like we’re accustomed to with the punk rockers. But these songs, if not the whole album, are filled with contemplative pauses. Tempo changes and long riffs lead to slowed down moments that sound like long breaths.
It isn’t exhaustion. It’s meditation. The band doesn’t have anything to prove. They music is coming from experience.
2005 specifically also had the release of the film, Lords of Dogtown. The Jaws of Life is reminiscent of the final scene of the movie: the outcast sport is in the zeitgeist, Stacy and Tony and all these other skaters made their money, but it’s come after turmoil and pain and loss. There’s been glory and it hasn’t been without pain.
Their latest album is a larger than life chomp at exactly that time period and culture but with a melancholic yet calmer twist. It’s resigned. It’s peaceful…in a Pierce the Veil/Vic Fuentes booming and high-pitched vocals peaceful kind of way.
The humdrum of the album is still the classic cadence of 2000’s post-hardcore and especially Pierce the Veil that we first grew to love. Vic Fuentes’ vocals are as high and loud as ever.
The 2022 single, “Pass the Nirvana”, was the first track released from the record and previewed the band’s incessant jazz-like spirit of changing things up from album to album. Throughout the work, there’s a narrative of that emo attitude and identity but now it’s not the outlier.
Lines like “there’s no greater vengeance than learning to enjoy again” from the song “Emergency Contact” bolster this durability and resolve.
Songs like “Damn the Man, Save the Empire” and “Resilience” carry tender tones and cadences that lure us as listeners and only amplify Fuentes’ vocals and lyrics. In The Jaws of Life, we see all the classic themes and cues, urgency, desperation, angst, youth, and energy from post-hardcore and emo of two decades ago but with a darker background and subtle delivery.
The record is a love letter with confidence. It’s a declaration. What’s most endearing is the honesty. The music is grappling and illustrating depression and anxiety and fear. But it is not cowering from it. If anything, the music is guiding us through these feelings.
“And pain is unavoidable at times but if it gets shit off your mind I understand, that’s kind of why I’m here, right?”, asks “Flawless Execution”.
“Shared Trauma” outright tells you “We share trauma and nothing’s gonna erase it so face it”. With this song, album begins to see itself out. “So Far So Fake” has us cauterizing veins and walking away from harmful situations. And “12 Fractures” closes out Pierce the Veil’s fourth and latest installment.
The album brought in collaborative efforts, being the first album without Mike Fuentes who decided to walk away from the band on amicable terms after realizing that a public life wasn’t for him. Among these collaborations was longtime friend to the band, Brad Hargreaves of Third Eye Blind who did the drum tracks; Paul Meany of Mutemath who produced; Adam Hawkins (Machine Gun Kelly, Turnstile, Twenty One Pilots) who mixed; and others, including the recording of ambient sound outside of a house the band rented in New Orleans, Louisiana.
By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca