Review || Neck Deep - "The Peace & The Panic"

When Neck Deep vocalist Ben Barlow commented on "The Peace And The Panic" that "[he] wouldn’t say it’s pessimistic, just realistic" he perfectly summed up the essence of the album, highlighting the transition which started on "Life's Not Out To Get You". The band released four singles, the latest being just days before the album dropped, and the experiment paid off quite well as the listener had a satisfying taste of what to expect. 

The album kicks off with “Motion Sickness”, where the theme of peace and panic is introduced through struggling with mental illnesses, while holding a positive mental attitude. Musically, the track has the usual Neck Deep character, fresh and upbeat.
“Happy Judgement Day” boldly establishes the panic part and gets political, pointing fingers and outlining the frailty of the modern world. The accuracy of the song is almost ironic (hopefully not prophetic) as it manifests in an anthemic vibe.
In “The Grand Delusion”, the band finds anew their melodic self and plays the catchy game. Barlow uses his higher register (and controlled longer breaths) to shade how insecurities intensify the overwhelming need to escape while, on “Parachute”, the band moves to a more radio-friendly territory, casually flirting with alternative rock sounds. It’s your basic concert hit that adamantly promotes self-empowerment (“We don’t need a God to take a leap of faith”).
“In Bloom”, the latest single to come out, is one that Neck Deep takes particularly great pride in –and how could they not? They combine with honesty the terrifying thoughts of slipping back to poisonous depression with the slower tempo that allows the track to artfully develop and strike the listener with a profound relatability. The following track, “Don’t Wait", was made renown and anticipated for Sam Carter of Architects doing a rare guest spot. To be fair, I had higher expectations of the track. Not so much of the composition itself but to the extent that the band could take advantage of their guest’s vocal abilities. Although other songs suggestively wink at a heavier undertone, this one lacks the dynamic to become a revolutionary anthem more so considering the recent events in the UK (which I believe was the point here). Au contraire, it basically relies on a generic pop punk pattern up to the point where Sam comes in -and elevates the song with his screams. Yes comrades, I’m afraid the days of Sam’s clean singing are officially over.
“Critical Mistake” takes it down a notch, still keeping a groovy vibe as it transitions to the ballad of the album, “Wish You Were Here”. Although I tend to be quite cynical with softer songs if I’m not in the mood, this one never fails to hit me straight in the feels as the power of nostalgia is quite overwhelming. "Heavy Lies", on the other hand, returns to the character of the album. “19 Seventy Sumthin”, follows that path. In this case however, less is more. I love the simplistic approach and how inadvertently catchy it is –until, of course, the unexpected turn that builds to a crescendo and the mourning for a beloved family member. The album goes out with a blast. The final song is also one of the singles, “Where Do We Go When We Go”, with that contagious singalong that will stick in your head.

To sum things up. The boys are growing up, with everything that entails, and they thoroughly portray that in their art whether it’s self-realization, finding themselves or just everyday survival. Returning to Barlow’s initial comment, I’d say that the realism lies on the mere fact that the guys have a cognitive approach on the aforementioned subjects and they actually attempt to deal with their problems instead of just accepting their fate and weeping about it, feeling helpless. That’s a strong message the album conveys, and I would say it does so in an encouraging way; instead of blabbing about how “things get better” (which is true, but I doubt it has ever truly helped anyone struggling), they prompt the listeners to seize opportunities, to believe in themselves and to go after their dreams because life is finite.
Regardless of your opinion on this oversaturated, Warped-tour-nurtured genre, Neck Deep demands your attention and proves that they’re not just cute lyrics on Tumblr images; they have climbed their way to the top and they intend to stay there.
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