by Natalie Dest
Neck Deep has hit the pop-punk scene head-on with the release of their newest album, “The Peace and the Panic.” Released this past August, the band’s third album combines two genres, pop and punk, and likewise incorporates the duality of peace and panic.
Originating out of Wales, the band has gradually gained its following after the release of their debut album, “Wishful Thinking” in 2014. This was followed by their second album, “Life’s Not Out to Get You” in 2015. The band has come to terms with both the highs and lows of life emotionally, crafting their most diverse album to date.
Neck Deep is signed to Hopeless Records with other bands including All Time Low, With Confidence and Tonight Alive. Neck Deep puts out similar pop-punk anthems but puts emphasis on tracks that are inspired by loss, fear and the art of moving on.
Kicking off the album is the uplifting first track entitled “Motion Sickness.” Throughout the course of the song, lead vocalist Ben Barlow makes a plea to both the listener and himself, stating “Don’t stop now… think twice before you go and throw it all away.” This track serves as an honest first chapter, exposing their vulnerability while showcasing their self-assurance, all while the driving guitar melody creates the urge to get up and dance.
Following “Motion Sickness” is “Happy Judgement Day.” This song juxtaposes the ideas of “peace” and “panic” and emotional changes people go through. “Happy Judgement Day” addresses anxiety, paranoia and trying to find understanding within others. This track delivers an uptempo rhythm while Barlow sings the lyrics, “Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like this could be farewell… well, we almost had it, then we pissed it all away.”
The third track, “The Grand Delusion,” showcases a shift in the album. The song takes on a smoother melodious tone than the previous songs. Barlow’s vocals seem to be less staccato, giving him the opportunity to sustain longer notes with a slower chorus. The lyrics discuss mental health, as listeners hear the band questioning one’s identity in the main hook, “I’m coming to the conclusion… I think I would rather be anyone else but me.”
The fourth track, “In Bloom” emotes a softer, more emotional story, as if Barlow is bearing his soul. Thematically, the track perfectly embodies the message of both the “peace” and the “panic” of the album, making note of one’s insecurities and battles, while trying to get better.
Following “In Bloom” is the song “Don’t Wait,” featuring the guest vocalist, Architect’s Sam Carter. This politically driven song is the polar opposite of preceding track. It is another example of how “The Peace and the Panic” has contrasting themes throughout the album, all while keeping the energy high.
These contrasting themes are heard again in the acoustic track “Wish You Were Here.” Slowing things down a bit, Neck Deep gives fans a more intimate song with softer melodies and vocals. The sentiment of the track expresses the loss of a loved one from a tragic accident. The song addresses religion and afterlife through the lyrics, “They say you’re in a better place… too bad it’s not what I believe.”
Similarly to “Wish You Were Here,” the track “19 Seventy Sumthin” shows the more intimate side of the band. The song has more of a pop vibe contrasting sad lyrics that describe the passing of Barlow’s father back in 2016.
The song begins cheery, but a sharp change occurs at the bridge of the track when Barlow sings, “Cause baby we made it, yeah baby you saved me.” The lyrics progress to, “But nothing could save him from the ambulance that day… when he went away.” The instrumental breakdown eventually releases the tension, while the song finishes with the comforting lyrics, “He lives on in all of us.”
The following track, “Where Do We Go When We Go,” is a pivotal moment within the album. The title represents the lyrical message well.
Opening with a children’s choir, the lyrics “Pain, pain, go away… come back another day… I just wanna get one up on life before it kills me,” are sung in unison. The lyrics deliver a feeling of connection and empathy regarding emotional pain and longing. Once Barlow’s vocals are met with the choir’s, the lyrics juxtapose the fear of death to the yearning to truly live.
This song ends the album with the familiar sounds of heavy guitar riffs and driving upbeat melodies.
Overall, the duality of the album is perfectly balanced between the messages of “peace” and “panic.” The album flawlessly explores the band’s personal battles and experiences, creating a very raw, honest and vulnerable third album.
From beginning to end, this album by no means limits the band solely to the unspoken rules of what makes a “good” pop-punk album. Neck Deep challenges themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone, resulting in their best album to date.
Neck Deep will begin a music tour in the United States on Jan. 18. Opening bands include Creeper and Speak Low. For more information on show dates and tickets, visit neckdeepuk.com or follow the band on Twitter @NeckDeepUK.