Starting out as an unsigned, post hardcore band with a singular EP under the name of Paris to eventually signing to Rise Records and releasing their incredible debut White Noise, which was followed up with headlining tours and sharing the stage with the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse, it’s been interesting to see the upward trajectory of PVRIS’ career. On their debut album, the band shed their original sound and moved towards a more alternative rock sound, complemented by an array of synths and infectious melodies. With such a captivating sound, it came as no surprise to see them rise up to where they are in such a short amount of time. After releasing a series of videos for the various songs from their debut and as well as a reissue, the band entered the studio late last year to start work on their sophomore album. Tying into the gothic and moody aesthetic that formed part of the band’s identity, the band recorded their album inside a supposedly haunted church which was turned into a studio. With a title taken from an Emily Dickinson poem, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell takes everything you knew about PVRIS and takes it up a notch, proving that their quick rise to stardom was anything but a fluke.
Not unlike its predecessor, the band still creates electronically-tinged alternative rock, however, there’s now a stronger focus on creating broader soundscapes using more synths than guitars. It’s not that the band has completely eliminated those elements, but the synths and other instruments, like the harp and piano, are much more established. The opener and first single, “Heaven” quickly establishes this with the first sound you hear being piano note and Lynn Gunn’s vocals. Guitars enter the fray, but they blend in with the various electronics more than ever, creating an atmospheric sound that backs up Gunn’s vocals in a much more nuanced way. It’s a sound that prevails throughout much of the album, which may seem like it’d make for a very repetitive listen, but PVRIS mix things up throughout each song causing separation from track to track. It’s mostly small stuff like throbbing synths and strong bassline in “What’s Wrong” or the indie-pop esque guitars in album closer, “Nola 1”.
While the fuller and more electronic sound showcased in the album’s singles is certainly a good representation of what to expect of the overall sound, there’s also moments that rival the aggression shown in songs like “Fire”. These moments range from Lynn emphasizing a lyric with yells, like in the aforementioned single, or when the band takes it up a notch instrumentally. Take the chorus of “Same Soul” which displays powerful, vocal intensity as Gunn proclaims “I’m just somebody that you used to love” or “No Mercy”, which quite possibly is the band’s most intense sounding song to date. Starting off with a barrage of synths and driven primarily by percussion, the vocals switch between falsetto and yells before it erupts into a monstrous chorus.
While White Noise featured the use of ghosts as a metaphor (which only added to their aesthetic) for depression, their sophomore album is more direct with its lyrics in a way that makes for a more personal record. This is made clear in the album’s second single “What’s Wrong”. Reflecting on the time between the release of their debut and the recording of the new album, Gunn grew colder with the world and began to realize that the ghosts that alluded to her depression were nothing compared to how she feels now. It’s a harsh look that continues throughout the album as she explores themes of heartbreak and the changes to her personality. These depressive thoughts loom throughout the album and are made more poignant when combined with the overall moody tone that the album encompasses. Even with the cloud that looms in Lynn’s lyrics, the album manages to end on a more positive note with the incredible “Nola 1”. This track mostly depicts moving on from a past love, but the chorus makes the point of self-reflection and understanding that while we may not always be the same person we once were, we shouldn’t let that stop us from living.
All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell is a lot like Gunn in the way that they’re not the same band they once were. Relying more on their electronic side was a risk that pays off once you start getting into the album and begin to peel away the different layers that compose their songs. In the end, PVRIS have delivered a great follow-up that feels like a natural evolution to the band that took the music industry by storm with White Noise.