In 2015, Welsh pop punk outfit Neck Deep released their sophomore album Life’s Not out to Get You which not only changed the perception of the band, but also the perception of what the genre is still capable of. Centered around the theme of overcoming struggles that life throws at people, the songwriting on the record came across silky smooth, enhanced further by a desire to expand beyond their comfort zone. Upon release, the album gathered accolade and acclaim at an incredible rate and truly delivered upon the band’s desire of releasing an album that would cement their legacy. Now, two years later the group is back with their highly anticipated third album The Peace and The Panic, which was once again written based on the current time period of their lives. The curveball comes in how those experiences are delivered sonically and the end result is an album that is not what everyone is likely expecting.
When it comes to following up a critically successful album, there’s generally three types of albums a band will output: a consistent, but safely played record that sticks to its lane, a record that tries too hard to deviate from what it truly is resulting in something unexpected and a record that builds on the previous release and takes the band up another notch further. Neck Deep fall somewhere in between the second and third option with The Peace and The Panic as the album strives to reach the accolades of Life’s Not out to Get You, but at times ends up in what feels like an entirely different genre. To get a true grasp on what we’re speaking of, it simply takes an understanding of what comes at listeners as they make their way through the record and that is a multi-facted approach of taking on and understanding the realities of what the world is currently undergoing. While this is an expected evolution thematically as they’ve aged and had new experiences, sonically the growth dips into uncharted waters for the band and as a result, pumps out some very non-pop punk sounding tracks.
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Before we dive into the uncharted waters comment in more detail, it should be noted that album truly does feel like a Neck Deep album and contains plenty of pop punk goodness, it’s just that they’ve clearly had a desire somewhere over the past two years to expand their sound outside of a certain framework. Case in point is the first three tracks on The Peace and The Panic, as “Motion Sickness” and “Happy Judgement Day” retain the poppy, yet fully packed punch of vulnerable punk that Neck Deep has become synonymous with. It’s the third track, “The Grand Delusion”, where the sound veers into much more melodic and soothing territory akin to pop rock as a memorable riff carries the song underneath swooning vocals. This track serves as a turning point on The Peace and The Panic just three songs in as what follows a variety of more pop-rock and emo driven anthems intermixed with sprinkles of their roots. Additionally, the biggest directional shift the band has taken hits smack in the middle of the record with “Don’t Wait”, which features Architects’ Sam Carter as a guest vocalist and delivers a powerful message and truly memorable song that will have listeners clamoring for more.
Music fans tend to be very fickle and it’s a risky move to deviate from what musicians become known for, but in order to refrain from becoming creatively bankrupt and to create the best work they possibly can, delving into new areas and realms is not only needed, but really required. There’s assuredly people out there who thought that The Peace and The Panic would be Life’s Not out to Get You part two. In some ways, it is as the themes and core message of Neck Deep has evolved and grown as they have, but in the sonic sense of that ideology, the album itself has moved beyond being confined into a singular genre, opting to show off the Neck Deep of the here and now. On the outside, this is reminiscent of their debut – a solid output that showed where they were headed, but left plenty of room to expand with the follow up, which they will surely do. After all, they’ve proved everyone wrong before so why start to doubt them now?