When someone speaks of pop punk, the most immediate sound that comes to mind likely derives from the late 90’s and early 2000’s revolution of bands like Blink-182, Sum 41 and Green Day. These bands blended the genre with the edgier and more adrenaline fueled sound of rock created a distinctive secondary sound to the overall classification. This led to more and more acts being started that incorporated further heavier elements eventually leading to artists like A Day to Remember, the likes of which blend the foundation of metalcore’s sound with pop punk. Thanks to these pioneers, many new musicians have entered the fray with their take on this subset of pop punk and Detroit metalcore outfit I Prevail are no exception. In slightly under 3 years, they’ve become a household name from the release of their luke-warm received EP Heart vs Mind to their oddly successful and viral Taylor Swift cover of “Blank Space” to the eventual signing to Fearless Records. Now that the band is set to release their debut album, Lifelines, anticipation is high, but many are leery truly waiting to see if they can strike gold with their original content rather than heavy takes on popular music.
To truly do a justified review of Lifelines, it’s important to note that the album is going to be a mixed bag in sound and reception, from fans and critics alike. Upfront, it’s easy to say the entirety of the record is a vast improvement over the bands EP, Heart vs Mind and that the songs presented are more cohesively written with tighter production, thanks to working with producer Drew Fulk. A perfect example of that can be found in the album’s opener and lead single “Scars” is a befitting introduction to the overall strengths that I Prevail output as a band and throughout the record. It’s one of the best examples of the bands ability to not only compose music, but strike the right balance between a combination of melodic and catchy hooks with heavy, crushing riffs and brutal screams. Further, singer Brian Burkheiser and screamer Eric Vanlerberghe’s vocals are superb throughout a large majority of Lifelines, making them one of the highlights. Furthermore, Vanlerberghe’s screams are reminiscent of Dave Stephens of We Came As Romans and help cement the heavier side that I Prevail showcases. Songs such as “Already Dead” and “Come and Get It” are venom filled, angry songs that is just one example of the bands versatility and ability to tap into both their melodic and heavy sides.
As mentioned earlier, the album is truly a mixed bag in sound and that leads to the biggest weaknesses found throughout the whole of Lifelines, the varied flow and stereotypical and sometimes straight nonsensical lyrical content. The album as a whole feels very disjointed as the tracks bounce back and forth between the likes of metalcore and full on pop punk like going from “Scars” to “Stuck in Your Head” or when the heavy hitting “Chaos” is followed up by the ballad driven “Alone”. There’s absolutely no shame or harm in slowing things down and embracing other genres, but the approach on display here tends to be an album breaking point, splitting records into two halves (a common occurrence with music today) and hurts the overall flow of the record. This should’ve been expected though as the album cover almost represents a good versus evil approach and their original EP was also titled in a way to pit two things against each other. When it comes to the lyrical content, most of it is meant to be uplifting and soothing for people who have dealt with adversity, which helps it be very relatable, but some of the lyrics tend to not make a whole lot of sense and come across forced and generic.
This is an album that is true to its roots in the secondary sound of pop punk; that is, it builds off the core foundation of the genre while continuing to blend in elements of metalcore and rock. This large scope of variation has two different sides to it, both of which are prominently on display throughout the entirety of Lifelines. There’s the exciting, energetic and heavy side that will surely draw more people in and then there’s the full on pop punk side that doesn’t seem to really fit the band. That being said, I Prevail have shown that they aren’t the one trick ponies everyone seemingly made them out to be and that they’re more than capable of composing memorable, original music which should ultimately help distance themselves from being that “Blank Space” band and finally give them their own identity.