Review: PVRIS – White Noise

Formed in 2012, PVRPVRISIS are an alternative rock band from Massachusetts that evolved from a post-hardcore group (traces of which can be found in White Noise). Originally performing under the name ‘Paris’, the band have since lost two members and changed their name to PVRIS in July 2013, citing legal reasons (the ‘V’ functioning as an upside down ‘A’). Their signing to Rise/Velocity Records was announced in August 2014 (known for bands such as Sleeping With Sirens) and PVRIS were the first female-led band to be signed in the company’s history. The band’s permanent trio is now lead singer and rhythm guitarist Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, lead guitarist and keyboardist Alex Babinski, and bassist Brian McDonald.

Considering that Pvris is technically a three piece band, the songs they produce (with the help of Blake Harnage of emo-pop duo Versa and There For Tomorrow drummer Christopher Kamrada) are surprisingly prodigious in their sound, and ‘White Noise’ does not come across as the debut album of a band that has been together for just two years. It exudes huge confidence, with few wavering moments throughout a superbly crafted 40 minutes of alternative and electronic rock. Whilst it might be considered a dangerous decision to place all three singles within the first half of the album (‘St. Patrick’, ‘My House’ and ‘White Noise’), it works incredibly well due to the strength of the other songs. ‘Holy’ is perhaps the weakest track, and it is well placed between ‘My House’ and ‘White Noise’, but generally the high expectations created at the start of the album are met or exceeded, and it is a testament to the band’s achievement that it is difficult to pick standout tracks due to the overall high quality. Skillful layering, effective application of electronic elements and synths, uncomplicated but assertive drum beats and thoughtfully used guitars contribute to multi-textured masterpieces such as ‘My House’, ‘Let Them In’ and ‘Fire’. It’s remarkable how varied the songs are, and shows PVRIS’ ability to avoid direct identification with any one band or artistic influence.

It’s easy to place a young, female fronted band with aggressive lyrics and ferocious vocals in the same bracket as Paramore, coincidentally also a three piece band. However, the colourless album cover and any awareness of their lyrics – the song ‘Fire’ opens with ‘Don’t blame your death on the shit in your head/that you claimed ate you like a virus for days on end’ – reveals a darkness within the very essence of the band’s persona. The powerful opener ‘Smoke’ features the words ‘I feel a fire in the back of my throat, so let’s get covered in flames and play some games with the smoke’. Death, disease and decay are prominent themes in White Noise; lyrics include ‘you’ve been making me sick/gotta get you out of my system’ (‘St. Patrick’), ‘I’m aching/suffocating’ (‘White Noise’) and ‘don’t forget you’ll decay/And you’ll waste away’ (‘Fire’).

Issues surrounding death are also explored, such as spirituality and holiness. Gunnulfsen sings ‘but please stay/’Cause I think you’re a saint and I think you’re an angel’ in ‘St. Patrick’, and the aptly named ‘Holy’ focuses on ‘a poor unfortunate soul’. Whilst ‘Holy’ may be lacking musically in comparison to other tracks, its lyrics represent a starkly desolate and somewhat existential perspective that seems to question the presence of a god through lyrics such as ‘you’re just a ghost at most/a set of empty bones’ and ‘you can’t control where your body lets you go/you’re all alone’. This obsessive interest in death is among the most important characteristic features of White Noise, both as a theme in itself and as an allusion to destructive relationships. It pervades the lyrical content of the album and seeps into the echoing guitars, ever-present minor chords, and is reflected in Gunnulfsen’s commanding yet often haunting vocals that can convey fierce anger or an almost godlike serenity. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Gunnulfsen’s voice in defining the band’s sound; her unpredictable and highly versatile vocals seem effortlessly confident, whether angrily shouting ‘it’s my soul/it isn’t yours anymore’ in ‘My House’ or softly singing about vulnerability and a ‘fear of the cold nights’ in ‘Eyelids’.

Their name may be comparable to that of Scottish electronic band CHVRCHES (pronounced ‘churches’), and parallels can be drawn between PVRIS and Paramore due to some vaguely similar sounding songs and the female vocals. However, despite the presence of a female frontman, a vocal style that may unite Lyndsey Gunnulfsen and Hayley Williams on certain songs, and the possible influence of bands such as CHVRCHES, Daughter and Crystal Castles, PVRIS are undoubtedly divergent in their musical and lyrical content from these bands. The blending of alternative rock, electronic rock and the punk-rock vocal style on several tracks is masterfully done, resulting in an album that defies attachment to a single genre. White Noise is consistently strong throughout, maintaining intensity from ‘Smoke’ to the explosive final song ‘Let Them In’. The songs manage to invoke dark themes whilst remaining catchy, and the band’s willingness to experiment with style and genre on their debut album reveals an understandably large amount of self-confidence. White Noise is a brooding, contemplative, and at times understated album, from a band that want to be taken seriously. PVRIS arguably deserve this recognition; it’s a seriously good album