Sound — 7
In 2014, post-hardcore sextet I Prevail rose from obscurity after their cover of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" went viral on YouTube. The cover is now closing in on 30 million views and secured the band a deal with Fearless Records.
The same year the EP "Heart vs. Mind" was released. The EP contained the band's first original tunes, showcasing a typical post-hardcore sound. Downtuned riffs and huge arena-sounding choruses, all spiced up by roaring synths and the solid vocal combination of clean vocalist Brian Burkheiser and unclean vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe.
The band sticks to the same formula with their debut album "Lifelines." Guitarists Steve Menoian and Dylan Bowman's riffs aren't exactly anything original, but they do the genre justice. The band does however strive to impose a more melodic sound on a lot of the songs, contrary to many of their peers.
Despite many formulaic songs sounding very close to those of their peers, the album dives into softer, more melodic territories, with a couple of quite strong ballads, melodically, persisting on the album. A couple of songs also sound very pop-punkesque (specifically "One More Time") and some like plain old hard rock. This makes "Lifelines" a safe, yet diverse album.
Lyrics — 6
The weakest aspect of "Lifelines" is probably the lyrics. Common lyrical themes are depression, being who you are and heartbreak, all common post-hardcore themes, who are worn out with time.
Another trend on the album are the "in-your-face-songs." They're angry, malicious and the lyrics mostly deal with standing up to those who hold you down. This is also a subject matter which grows tired quite quickly, but in this case I can tolerate it as the main purpose of these songs is to get you pumped.
Generally the lyrics aren't very strong, but this also has exceptions. "Scars," one of the singles about "being yourself" sports some decent lines in the second verse: "Denial, denial is all that I've known/Holding me hostage, I'm never alone/Fighting for air, I'll fight to survive/My souls not for sale, I won't pay the price." Not great poetry, but still not on the same level of cliche as the lyric: "You're not the one I want in my bed/But I'm gonna be the song stuck in your head."
On the subject of vocal delivery, I Prevail seems to have found the perfect balance between clean and unclean vocals. Burkheiser's raspy and mature voice is a welcome alternative to all the high-pitched lead singers of the genre, while Vanlerberghe showcases a nice pair of lungs (which become more apparent live). Their voices blend very well with the two of them trading parts and sometimes even singing togheter.
Overall Impression — 7
I've been cheering on I Prevail since they were first signed, and although I've always had a certain liking to the band, I wasn't expecting this to be any more than a fun, typical post-hardcore album. In that sense, the band delivers. It isn't very original, and the lyrics aren't the best, but what they deliver is solid.
In a genre where bands are sounding more and more alike, I Prevail don't stand out much. They do however show a sense of maturity in their music not present among their more established peers.
Standout tracks include the re-released ballad "My Heart I Surrender" (originally from their debut EP), the gloomy album closer "Worst Part of Me," the contempopray pop-punkesque song "One More Time" and the techno-influenced ballad, "Alone." In my mind these songs stand out because they take a different approach than the rest of the album, all sounding different from the more post-hardcore-oriented songs. These songs do, in my opinion, prove that the band is capable of making music other than contemporary post-hardcore.
A great thing about this album is that it really works well as an album. It feels like a cohesive unit with the songs complementing each other well.
In a genre where bands are sounding more and more alike, I Prevail don't stand out much. They do however show a sense of maturity in their music not present among their more established peers and a strong foundation to improve upon.