That’s what’s going on here: progression. The band are flexing muscles they’ve never used (and across the board are flexing muscles unused since 2016 and Misadventures). ‘Pass The Nirvana’, coming in at track two, was the perfect lead single to introduce the band to a new generation of fans. It was a brave single and is accessible but heavy when it wants to be.
The title track, sitting dead centre on the record, is another point where the band are distinctly themselves (they’re one of few bands who honed an identity almost right away) but pushing themselves, seeing what they can achieve. The guitars crunch, Vic sounds as crisp as always, but there’s something new in there. And it works like a charm. ‘Resilience’ and ’12 Fractures’ are also new territory, but this time from a more mellow, melodic angle. The former is beautiful, seeing the band getting closer to where they want to be, and there’s a brilliant, evocative solo. The latter, which closes out the album impeccably, has a stunning feature, some of the band’s best ever lyrics (“there are shortcuts into Heaven through your eyes”) and, frankly, haunts long after you turn the record off.
Of course, there are spaces where the album isn’t quite as successful, spaces for them to grow into. ‘Even When I’m Not With You’ is simply too repetitive, if not moving, while ‘Flawless Execution’ lacks a kick and just falls a little flat by being too similar to the track before it, ‘Emergency Contact’. And while we’re discussing that track, it’s a catchy banger much like ‘Props & Mayhem’ (from 2012’s Collide With The Sky) which is the perfect track to ease new fans into the band’s sound.
Other than proper opener, proper rocker ‘Death Of An Executioner’, which is far and away the album’s best track, harking right back to Misadventures with its chugging bass and killer crunching riffs, the album lacks a heavy kick. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for the band wear the softer sound well, but just worth noting for fans who long for the band’s unbridled aggression. ‘Damn The Man, Save The Empire’ simply should’ve been heavier with a title like that. As should ‘So Far, So Fake’. Yet, both are infectious and memorable with a tonne of replay value.
In reality, I don’t know what I expected from a PTV full length, seven years on from their last. In some ways, it delivered. In others, I look forward to album six where I can see where they went next. The fact is, if you’re a fan, you’ll dig it. If you’re new to the band, there’s plenty of places to jump on. If you’re a casual listener, you’ll have at least one takeaway that’ll stay on rotation for most of the year. What more can you ask for?