This 2010s band got big on TikTok in 2022, and now they’re back with ‘The Jaws of Life’
“Kick your mind open like a punk-rock show/Uppercut bleeding through a softened nose/If you didn’t come home injured would you say it was a good show?” sings Pierce the Veil’s Vic Fuentes on “Pass the Nirvana,” the Nirvana-esque first single from their fifth album, The Jaws of Life.
For emo fans now moving into the “kids and mortgage” phase of their life, that line might conjure memories of throwing yourself into a Warped Tour mosh pit — or at least bring to mind more metaphorical coming-of-age cuts and bruises. Well-timed nostalgia for emo’s 2010s golden age is a key selling point here, but Pierce the Veil’s comeback album also admirably strives to make their sound resonate a little more widely than old fans might expect.
The Jaws of Life is Pierce the Veil’s first album since 2016, and their first LP without original drummer Mike Fuentes, who left the group due to allegations of sexual misconduct from two women,. Now, reconstituted, they’ve already been able to find success. Last year, their 2012 single “King for a Day” reached the Number One spot on Billboard’s Hard Rock Streaming chart after it went viral on TikTok, with everyone from Travis Barker’s son and Charli D’amelio to Lizzo jumping on the trend of mouthing along to lyrics like “I’m tired of begging for the things that I want/I’m over sleeping like a dog on the floor.”
The Jaws of Life sprawls out in the space between teenage music and teenage emotion, usually with predictable results, sometimes in ways that can be a little surprising. “Death of an Executioner” adds synths to their sound, “12 Fractures” has a Nineties-grunge influence not seen in their previous work, and the highlight “Flawless Execution” is a mid-tempo ballad with modern production touches. These detours all merge well with the band’s go-go post-hardcore sound. For fans looking for something akin to the hyperactive energy of “King for a Day,” the fast-paced “Death of an Executioner” comes close, while not hitting the same level of earworm immediacy. The album is just diverse enough to show some evolution, while harkening back to key moments from their past. “Death of an Executioner” could have been on 2010’s Selfish Machines, while “Damn the Man, Save the Empire” recalls their 2006 debut, A Flair for the Dramatic.
The songwriting here is par for the course coming from a band whose lyrics are commonly scrawled across Converse tennis shoes or made into Tumblr edits. “Even When I’m Not With You” delivers high school diary-entry levels of first-crush romanticism; “Shared Trauma” recommends embracing your pain instead of running from it; and the slow-build acoustic-driven ballad “Resilience,” which opens with iconic dialogue from Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (“If I start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself”), deals with figuring out how to stay sane when teenage angst follows you into adulthood. These guys seem to have figured out the right balance to keep going, and maybe you can, too – Warped Tour scars and all.