(This review originally appeared in Substream #58, which is on stands now.)
While frills and extras are nice, sometimes you just want to get right to the point. You want your drink without a chaser, your burger without condiments, your car to just get you where you’re going. On their sophomore album, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, PVRIS is not messing around. The record consists of 10 songs with lead singer Lynn Gunn saying exactly what she means, revealing exactly how she feels, and delivering it all with her usual vocal bombast. It’s earnest and true without feeling forced, and cements Gunn as one of the best songwriters to put an album out in 2017.
Gunn switches from despair and pain to defiant anger and fierce determination without missing a beat, and her ability to go from a deep growl to belting the higher notes on the album have been harnessed to full effect, most evident on “What’s Wrong.” This pointed approach to songwriting doesn’t compromise the lyrical flow of the tracks either, as each still supports strong melodic lines throughout.
Band members Alex Babinski (guitar) and Brian MacDonald (bass) more than hold their own, giving the instrumental just the right touch of what it needs, most notably the combination of subtle eeriness and pulsing energy in single “Half.” As opposed to White Noise, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell leans a little bit harder on its percussion, a gale force behind the emotional intensity of the album. The production and balancing on the album shines in this aspect, making sure the drums give you that deep satisfying pulse in your chest without overriding the synths, Babinski’s guitar, or MacDonald’s bass. There are also some truly stunning piano and organ parts, like those that open the album on “Heaven” and feature more heavily through the middle of the album.
The structure of the album itself is also worthy of note. With all of this raw honesty and huge sounds, the record is an intense listen, both sonically and emotionally, but PVRIS have strategically placed lulls into the album. This comes in the form of both short moments of reprieve in individual songs, where most instruments cut out to allow Gunn to bring the listener in closely with just her voice, and in the inclusion of softer songs like “Winter.” It’s just enough for listeners to be able to catch their breath before moving onto the next emotional high that the album contains.
All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell represents PVRIS discarding any reservations and giving us the message and music that they truly hold in their hearts. It’s an album that speaks like an old friend bearing their soul with a truly massive sound that manages to blow the doors down while still remaining crisp, clean, and nuanced. While the winter months are still ahead, PVRIS’s second studio record has firmly taken its place as one of the best of 2017.