The incredibly wordy title of PVRIS’ sophomore record is lifted directly from Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Parting’, which deals with the pain and difficulty of separations. This theme resonates throughout the Massachusetts electro-rockers’ second album, a rewarding, haunting and beautiful effort sure to please die-hards and draw in many new fans.
White Noise, the group’s debut, was paranormal and shadowy in its themes, and this continues in the new album. Vocalist Lynn Gunn, guitarist Alex Babinski, and bassist Brian MacDonald wrote in an abandoned and allegedly haunted church, a setting which clearly influenced the supernatural and ethereal aesthetic of both the lyrics and instrumentals on the ten songs present.
It’s not just the tone and visuals which carry on in full force from White Noise. Lead single and opener ‘Heaven’ is a perfect example of the improved sound PVRIS exhibit. Gunn’s recognisable and powerful vocals shine, especially in the chorus, with very enjoyable bass work from MacDonald and ethereal scattered synths and guitar lines from Babinski. Second single and my personal favourite, ‘What’s Wrong’, continues this strong work. It’s bouncy, catchy and raw in all the right places, with Gunn showcasing her famous growled vocals in the bridge.
a rewarding, haunting and beautiful effort
As usual with any cut from PVRIS, the vocals are the standout. Lynn Gunn utilises her wide range of mesmerising highs and beefy roars to full effect. ‘Walk Alone’ has a particularly memorable, building hook and brilliant layered vocal lines on the outro, and ‘Anyone Else’ has a chorus full of harmonies which float above the rest of the song. While her tendency to mumble through her lyrics can get irritating after a while, there’s no denying the raw talent and emotion on display here.
Gunn’s lyrics have also improved since White Noise, tackling relationships in an observant, melancholy manner. ‘Same Soul’ describes lovers finding each other multiple times in their lives, the titular same soul in various bodies, over a dark, driving, guitar-led backdrop. ‘Anyone Else’ touchingly details Gunn’s collapsing relationship with her girlfriend during touring, and ‘Winter’ is an interesting variation on the classic cold-hearted break-up song. ‘Separate’ provides a change of pace both lyrically and musically, with its slow, thoughtful synth and piano backing a ballad about the power of a romantic connection.
Instrumentally, the album is full of mid-tempo electro-rock anthems, guaranteed to translate well live and sound epic in big venues. ‘No Mercy’ has the strongest chorus on the album, a crunchy explosion of guitar contrasting wonderfully with ambient synthy verses. Brian MacDonald’s bass work stands out on the bridge here, and he provides a solid and groovy backbone to the whole album. Alex Babinski’s guitar work is also excellent, layering each song with beefy distortion and light melodic licks – a standout is ‘Half’. The drums are nothing special but never fall flat, and the synths create a fuller and unique soundscape throughout. If there is a downside, it’s that the structures and sound of each track tend to blend together, especially on initial listens, and album closer ‘Nola 1’ feels a little underwhelming after some of the soaring moments earlier on.
guaranteed to translate well live and sound epic in big venues
All We Know Of Heaven is a masterclass on how to nail the notoriously tricky sophomore album. It’s not as immediately catchy as White Noise, but the band has smoothly consolidated on the sound that made them popular, taking their music to a darker place while retaining a pop-leaning, captivating sound. This haunting collection shows PVRIS are here to stay in the rock scene, and with Lynn Gunn’s charisma as a frontwoman, could propel them into the mainstream.