Few artists have parlayed their collective frustration and vision into rich songwriting quite like Pierce the Veil has with its fourth full-length album, “Misadventures.”
After six years of nonstop touring around the world, the San Diego-bred post-hardcore quartet had a breakthrough moment in 2012 with a massively successful third album, “Collide with the Sky.” The subsequent acclaim it received from fans and critics meant the band’s days as an opening act were over.
The band began production on the album in summer 2014 at producer Dan Korneff’s (Emery, My Chemical Romance) Long Island studio. It would take another two years of work to complete the much-anticipated follow-up.
“Misadventures” took so long that nationally published music and youth culture magazine Alternative Press published a front-cover story in May 2015 that asked the topical question: “Why can’t Pierce the Veil finish a record?”
Enter “Misadventures,” a mutated splice between a Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust” and a Geddy Lee-fronted Rancid. Released last May, the album reached number four on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart and has spawned four singles to date.
Frontman and rhythm guitarist Vic Fuentes spills his anxious mind into the album’s dystopian lead single “The Divine Zero.” The 34-year-old trades his helium-fueled pipes with a ghoulish scream over the galloping beat to rid the extant demons from his foggy head.
The smoky intro to “Gold Medal Ribbon” glimmers like an ’80s pop smash when the bell synths sound and lead guitarist Tony Perry polishes each measure with his retro flourishes. A heavy-hearted Fuentes penned the dirge for a past lover who died while he was still writing “Misadventures.”
Inspired by the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks at the Bataclan Theatre, the radio rock hit “Circles” is deceivingly uptempo and places the listener on scene with lines like: “Paper hearts turned ash begin to fly / over our heads I begin / screaming while the exit signs read: ‘heaven’s waiting.’”
“Floral & Fading” marries a thunderous rhythm section with sickly-sweet pop hooks and vocals that burrow themselves deeper into your mind the longer you listen.
PTV nurtures its SoCal punk roots with the hyper-caffeinated single “Texas is Forever,” a double-time monster that captures drummer Mike Fuentes’ (the younger Fuentes brother) unbridled raw energy with Perry’s lightning-strike riffage.
Bassist and band catalyst Jaime Preciado rides their furious pace until the breakdown when the song descends into a warzone in which his bass thuds the eardrums like artillery fire. The boys layer some artfully churning guitars around the mayhem to maintain the song’s melodic tendencies.
Lyrically, “Misadventures” chronicles PTV’s struggle from the perspective of the elder Fuentes. Occasionally, the Jekyll and Hyde polarity of his vocal styles overshadow the vivid stories he tells.
Fuentes casts the opener “Dive In” in a nightmarish light: “…take a breath / blow the smoke through the hole in my chest / still choking on the bed / found your waste while the ember red / keeps falling down and burning holes / until the pillow and the mattress glow,” he sings under a distorted riff.
The song’s bleak imagery is juxtaposed by Fuentes’ sweetened harmonies and barbed hooks. These calm pockets, though, aren’t to be trusted. Fuentes belts a soulful earworm melody before he unleashes his feral growl over a thrashy breakdown a mere five seconds later.
The album is ripe with sonic curveballs, which are nuanced by the situations and subjects expressed by Fuentes’ lyrics.
Mike Fuentes’ intricate cymbal and snare hits drive the song’s skilled instrumentation on closer “A Song for Isabelle,” which showcases PTV’s finest songwriting yet; the lyrical content paints deeply textured images of a kaleidoscopic city under palm trees and red and orange hues of a West Coast sunset – this is before the band sets the Southern California horizon temporarily ablaze Tod Hackett-style with one last sternum-rattling breakdown.
The song ends with Fuentes softly cooing the refrain from rapper Ahmad Lewis’ 1994 song “Back in the Day.”
“Misadventures” delivers a genuine literary aesthetic and emotionally rewarding soundscapes, which unravel and reveal new layers upon every listen.