Pierce The Veil's The Jaws Of Life: Endlessly exuberant, wondrously versatile, and never predictable

Hiatus terminated, San Diego's arena-filling post-hardcore kings are hungry to make up for lost time

Pierce The Veil, The Jaws Of Life
(Image: © Fearless Records)

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Around a decade ago, Pierce The Veil had a hold on the alternative scene like no other.

Dominating the early 2010s with their unique brand of hyperactive post-hardcore, rooted in emotional honesty, the San Diego powerhouses fostered an impassioned community of Warped Tour-schooled devotees on timeless albums, Selfish Machines and Collide With The Sky, rising to arena-level success on 2016’s Misadventures.

Announcing a hiatus in 2018 after drummer and co-founder Mike Fuentes stepped down "to concentrate on his personal life", the small matter of an unprecedented global pandemic lengthened their time-out by a couple of years. But now Pierce The Veil are back, clearly hungry to take on the world anew.

With 2012 platinum hit King For A Day shooting to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hard rock Streaming Chart a decade after its release thanks to a TikTok resurgence late last year, on their fifth album the Fearless Records icons prove that they’re not ready to be relegated to nostalgia status just yet. 

The muffled sound of a machine powering back up fittingly introduces opener Death Of An Executioner. Flinging the curtains open with a flurry of bongos and maracas (courtesy of Third Eye Blind sticksman Brad Hargreaves, who takes on percussive duties for the record) it then drops into a familiarly frenetic post-hardcore groove. The first impression is that their signature elements are all proudly on display: the guitar tones are recognisable, the choruses are brilliantly anthemic, and frontman Vic Fuentes’ upper register remains as pristine as the day we last heard it. But deeper immersion in the record reveals that something has shifted.

Partially written in Seattle whilst Fuentes was living within the home studio of MXPX’s Mike Herrera, it’s hard to deny that the band have collected some of the city’s sonic influence on The Jaws Of Life. A distinct ‘90s grunge streak powers through lead single Pass The Nirvana, with distorted guitars pushed to the forefront of their sound. More often than not, it works flawlessly, and even on flatter mid-tempo moments like the hip-hop/electronica-infused Even When I’m Not With You, there’s a tender introspection to be found in Fuentes’ impressively maturing songwriting. 

Widening their sonic palette whilst remaining centred on the emotional vulnerability that so captivated their early fans, each left turn is calculated carefully without PTV losing sight of their identity, a tricky balancing act that has caused many of their peers to falter. Opening with dialogue from Richard Linklater's 1993 coming-of-age comedy film Dazed And Confused, mid-album cut Resilience captures that growth vividly, documenting how life can ruthlessly sink its teeth in and attempt to devour you, as it sombrely builds towards an emotive climax.

Flipping from post-hardcore infused alt. rock anthems to slower-paced alternative ballads, The Jaws Of Life offers dazzling moments of mellow introspection before letting the reigns loose again and again.

An endlessly exuberant, wondrously versatile, and never predictable set, its an album demonstrating that Pierce The Veil aren't ready to ease into that cosy, friction-less, comfort zone where other scene elders seem content to see out their days. Refusing to spoon-feed nostalgia to the masses, seventeen years from their inception, the reanimated kings of the alternative are shaking with urgency.

Freelance contributor