Tuesday, September 5, 2017

All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell | PVRIS

Having built a name as a metal band before splicing electronics into their debut studio album, rock band PVRIS shares the niche allure of a cover band that transposes popular contemporary hits into edgy rock pieces – spare the fact that PVRIS's tracks are, well, enjoyable. On White Noise, lead singer Lynn Gunn and bandmates Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald steamrolled sharp hooks with electronic rock and a voice capable of coarse screams and smooth warbles. Given the success of that guise, they created a sophomore album that proves mainstream rock and pop-punk, although more pop than punk, are still alive and well.

To understand the band's sophomore album, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, perhaps it is best to reference its title in its original context. Pulled from the final lines of an Emily Dickinson poem, it reads in full, "Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell." The phrase implies conflicting feelings of hope and doom, but lead singer Lynn Gunn errs on the side of hopelessness: "You took my heaven away," she belts on the album's opening track, a driving rock-leaning anthem engulfed in stern wails and heavy drums.

Splattering misery across the record's ten tracks, Gunn has been caught in a toxic whirlwind since the band's last record. The cause of her despair can be thrown up to a manipulative relationship and industry growing pains, but she ensures its severity is scaled to the utmost extreme: On "What's Wrong," she laments, "I don't need a metaphor for you to know I'm miserable." And from there, she burrows into herself, translating her tattered psyche through ear-catching melodies and soundscapes that shatter the barriers of pop sensibility and rock personality.

At times, in fact, it is hard to distinguish whether PVRIS is a pop-oriented rock band – as they present themselves on the jagged "No Mercy," which detonates in a screamed chorus – or a rock-influenced pop band – as we hear them on the dancing "Anyone Else" and forlorn "Separate," during which Gunn employs a slurred, Sia-like delivery. Though it bends genres further into a tailor-made mold for the band, the songwriting here is tighter and stronger than that on the debut: the melodies are more potent and pack a stronger punch to the senses, and the vision and storytelling offer a clearer vision into Gunn's world.

With the concept of coping as a reference point, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell offers a resolution that Dickinson was unable to provide when writing the phrase in regard to death. The album's closing track, "Nola 1," accepts ignorance as to where it all went wrong but realizes Gunn's ultimate purpose: "Don't know where I went wrong, but I keep singing." In a way, it is this phrase that ties Gunn and Dickinson's perspectives together: parting, regardless of context, can be painfully unfathomable, but when the storm clouds pass, it becomes clear that the world continues to turn. This record, of course, is just an explosive snapshot of Gunn as she weathers the storm.

All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is available now under Rise Records.

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