Colleen Narup, Editor |
I was 17 years old when a new kind of music I had never experienced before graced my ears—it was like the hard-rock music I was accustomed to, blended with electronic beats that emitted an eerie feel and angelic yet powerful female vocals.
The lyrics, ranging between the anger of wanting to escape a bad position and become happy on one’s own, to the depression that comes with longing for someone who will never return those feelings, were portrayed through paranormal symbolism and imagery. As a lover of both artistic expression through music and the supernatural, this band’s music touched the deepest part of my soul.
The band was PVRIS, pronounced “Paris,” and their 2014 debut album “White Noise” had me hooked from the moment I first heard it. After listening to this album on repeat for the last three years, I was stoked to hear their new album, “All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell,” released on Aug. 25.
The new album shows that PVRIS knows how to stick to their roots while still experimenting with new concepts for their sound. Their characteristic dark electronic-rock sound carries over from “White Noise,” albeit mellower in comparison. Vocalist Lynn Gunn’s voice overall sounds gruffer in slight contrast with this sound, and her smooth transitioning between this and her soft, angelic tone still remains.
“AWKOHAWNOH” doesn’t contain the ghostly themes that prevailed in their previous album, despite the fact that it was recorded in a reportedly haunted church-turned-recording-studio in Utica, New York, during the latter half of 2016. Given the album’s title, I expected the overall theme to reflect a “heaven vs. hell” contrast. This theme is present, more as an underlying tone in the context of each individual track, depending on how the listener chooses to interpret it.
The theme could be highlighted in “Heaven,” for example. Despite the pleasant sound of the title, the lyrics actually describe suffering caused by a lover. In the first verse, Gunn sings in a melancholic voice, backed with a piano and increasing drumbeat: “I think we were cursed from the start, / Second I let you into my heart. / Do you think we were speaking in tongues, / Or simply not enough? / Do you ever wonder / Who took the light from our life? / The life from our eyes?” Leading into the chorus, the backing guitars and drums intensify along with Gunn’s vocals as if to express growing anger, the chorus repeating: “You took my heaven away.”
Underlying “creepy” themes, reminiscent of “White Noise,” can still be noted in some of the tracks, such as “Half” and “Same Soul.” “Half” uses graves and death as symbolism to illustrate the feeling of mental illness: “Some days I feel everything, / Others are numbing. / Can never find the in between. / … / Never wanted to be here now, / One foot in the grave, other on the ground. / I can’t process what I’m feeling now. / This skin I can do without.” The lyrics show Gunn’s conflict with the “all or nothing” feelings her mind makes her experience, which make her not want to be alive but not want to die at the same time.
“Same Soul” can be perceived as an eerie love story, telling the tale of two lovers who cannot be together but subconsciously find each other’s souls in the bodies of other people. The verse, “I think we’ve loved a thousand lives / I try to find you every time / Searching for those same wide eyes / That locked me in, in my first life / Do you remember my old names? / Recognize my other face?” implies that the lovers’ fateful meetings are due to reincarnation, their souls reborn in entirely new bodies and still destined to come together again, even though they may not recognize it.
The songwriting for all 10 tracks on this album is as on-par as it was for the previous one, the messages of tragic love and longing remaining in PVRIS’ style while coming off stronger and darker, hitting listeners’ deep in the feels.
The only issue is present in the choruses, which are too repetitive at times. “Heaven,” “No Mercy,” and “Anyone Else” are good examples of this. Repetition works in some cases, such as with the first two aforementioned songs, to embed a powerful theme into the listener’s brain. However, the redundant line, “I don’t belong to anyone else,” which makes up the chorus to “Anyone Else,” isn’t strong enough to make any impact and instead is dull and a little irritating. With a little more effort in that aspect, every track on “AWKOHAWNOH” would be memorable enough to have a lasting spot in my heart.
PVRIS’ new album was better than I ever anticipated. While the lack of paranormal imagery within the writing was a bit disappointing to me, I was still satisfied that the eerie synths and gloomy sound still remained in the band’s style, while still feeling as fresh as they sounded when I first listened to “White Noise.” PVRIS definitely knows how to stick to their original premise while experimenting with new concepts.