Review Summary: Pierce the Veil refine their catchy style of post-hardcore into a more precise sophomore effort.Pierce the Veil is:
Vic Fuentes: Lead vocals and rhythm guitar
Mike Fuentes: Drums, percussion and backing vocals
Jamie Preciado: Bass, programming and backing vocals
Tony Perry: Lead guitar and backing vocals
Change can be a band’s best friend or it’s worst enemy. While some bands choose to change their sound (either for the better or worse) with each album, some bands in turn absolutely refuse to tweak their sound and keep coming back to the same formula--also for better or worse. Four-piece post-hardcore outfit Pierce the Veil, however, chose a different path for their sophomore effort, Selfish Machines
: that of improving and refining their already infectiously catchy melodies and pseudo-technical instrumentation, without “redefining” themselves as a band, or altogether changing their sound in the process. The result" A stellar release that will do nothing but further polarize the band’s following.
The area that has undergone the most noticeable of changes would be the all around instrumentation on Selfish Machines
. The guitars, for one, now stand out much more than they did on A Flair for the Dramatic
, and are more technical, more often. Previously, while the guitar was always there, it was never really…well…there
. Currently, the guitars are hard at work, no longer simply fitting the mood of a given song, but often defining the mood of the song—be it the jump-start intro to “Besitos,” or the subtle classical guitar in “The New National Anthem.” This isn’t to say the guitars are always dominant, or in your face. Tony and Vic can still be heard many times in many tracks simply playing along, strumming neither incompetently nor overzealously. As far as percussion goes, Mike provides a standard post-hardcore backbone--which is not a bad thing. He plays competently and quickly, but not in a showy-fill laden manner. When the time is right, you can hear the occasional speedy and intricate flam roll or double bass fill, but often times, he sticks to a simple, fun drum part which keeps the song moving along. Not much as changed in realm of bass guitar, sadly. While more audible than on past releases (which isn’t saying much), it still does little more than provide a strong, occasionally fun or technical low end.
The winding, intricacy of the guitars along with the steady, punchy backup provided by the drums, accompanied with the rumbling low notes of the bass all combine to create one stellar canvas upon which the vocals work their magic. Vic's high-pitched croon soars high above the conglomerate of instruments, matching guitars’ strung-out whine--meeting mixed results. While his vocals certainly command respect for the amount of talent it takes to hit notes that
high, they can easily be perceived as whiny or just unpalatable, creating a love-hate relationship. Given the band is a relatively vocal-centric one, Vic’s high-pitched singing can be a huge deciding factor in liking or disliking an otherwise solid band.
Fuentes is at some point vocally supported by every member of the band, and one guest, Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember (regardless of your feelings of his performance in his own band, his additions to “Caraphernalia” fit outstandingly well.) The backing vocals, while mostly the same, are now harmonically improved, and thus, used more often to support Vic when just his voice isn’t enough for the lyrics he writes. Speaking of lyrics, if nothing else, they’re outstandingly catchy. While “The Boy Who Could Fly,” “Caraphernalia,” and “Stay Away from My Friends” are all lyrical juggernauts; every song (save the effect-laden, incredibly repetitious “Fast Times At Clairmont High”) has at least a lyric or two that is prone to sneaking its way into your head and staying there for hours.
By now you might be wondering, “okay, so the vocals might be a little off-putting, but what else stands in the way of the complete success of this record"” Well, even if you weren’t wondering, I’m going to point it out anyways. This album is relatively top heavy, especially when compared to A Flair for the Dramatic
. Starting off with three of the best songs on the record (with “Southern Constellations” placed in there, but given its seamless transition into “The Boy Who Could Fly,” it’s easy to forget about) makes it easy to overlook what’s left. Don’t get me wrong--there are plenty of strong songs later on in the album; tracks like “The New National Anthem,” and “Disasterology” help keep it vaguely balanced, but ultimately, the album falls short of finding a way to compensate for having such an overwhelmingly energetic start. Factor in tracks like “Million Dollar Houses,” and “Fast Times at Clairmont High” (both of whom overuse effects and sing-along-y song structure to the point of their own demise), and it’s clear that while Pierce the Veil have come along way in refining their sound on Selfish Machines
, they still have a ways to go.
So, combine it all together; the absorbing guitar work, the steady drums, pseudo-prominent bass, lyrics that will lurk in your head for days and high, crooning--if not whiny vocals, and what do you get" Selfish Machines
, a post-hardcore spectacle that may not be as balanced as it’s predecessor, but certainly more technical, heavy, catchy and enjoyable.