Neck Deep’s third studio album “The Peace and the Panic” (released Aug. 18) is a deeply personal look at a band who’ve been on a rollercoaster ride since the release of 2015’s “Life’s Not Out to Get You.”
As the title suggests, vocalist Ben Barlow told Alternative Press the band was experiencing a “period of uninterrupted happiness” around “Life’s Not Out to Get You.” “The Peace and the Panic” is a response to the events after that “uninterrupted happiness.” Between the two records, Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans both saw the deaths of their fathers and friends. The band also replaced founding guitarist Lloyd Roberts with Sam Bowden after Roberts was accused of sexual misconduct with a fan (the case was later closed with Roberts facing no charges.)
The new record shows not only a band with a new perspective, but a new sound. Single “In Bloom” is a melancholy, slowed-down song compared to the in-your-face pop punk the band’s produced in the past. While the pop punk bangers are still on the album, the variety keeps the album interesting.
One of the album’s high points is “19 Seventy Sumthin’.” Barlow chronicles the story of his family, beginning with his parents meeting and ending with his father’s death and the family’s need to keep moving forward following it. “And I will hold you when I cry/Because that’s what family does,” Barlow sings in the final lyrics to his mother. The song is poppy and upbeat throughout, with bouncy Brit-pop keyboard stuck in the middle.
Lyrics about Barlow’s father’s death recur throughout the album. On the album’s opener “Motion Sickness,” Barlow sings he’s “sat on the kitchen floor all alone/Talking to a ghost about where we go when we go.” Those lyrics appear in the title of the album’s final song, “Where We Go When We Go.” The song ponders the afterlife and how to make a life worth living. “I just wanna get one up on life before it kills me,” Barlow almost defiantly sings in the chorus.
The current political climate served as lyrical fuel as well. “Happy Judgement Day” is the band’s response to a post-Brexit and Trump world. The song opens with a monster riff and details “building walls and dropping bombs.” “Don’t Wait” features vocalist Sam Carter of UK hardcore band Architects in a chaotic plea for the individual to seek out information for themselves instead of believing the government and media. The song crumbles around Carter as he breaks in on the bridge. “No justice/No peace…The truth will set you free,” Carter growls.
Bowden’s riffs stand out. Whether it’s the driving main riffs of “Motion Sickness” and “The Grand Delusion,” or the stuck-in-your-head closing riff at the end of “Parachute” or the mid-section jam of “In Bloom,” Bowden’s proven to be a worthy musical replacement for Roberts.
The variety on the album is surprising, yet shows immense songwriting growth from Neck Deep. Barlow said in several interviews the writing was more collaborative on “The Peace and The Panic” than it’s been for the band’s previous releases.
It’s paid off. The album hit #4 on the Official Charts in the band’s native UK and #2 on the Billboard charts in the US in its first week. “What a mental first week… At times like this I can’t help but think of my Dad, and how without him, I couldn’t have done this, yet it was without him that we did,” Barlow posted on Instagram on Tuesday.
Neck Deep embarks on their biggest US tour yet in January, stopping at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts on Feb. 3.
Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.