ARTIST: FRANK IERO AND THE FUTURE VIOLENTS

TITLE: BARRIERS

LABEL: UNFD

RATING: 9/10

WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON

Frank Iero is back and shining brighter and bigger than ever with third album ‘Barriers’. His first release with UNFD and first under the reinvented moniker of Frank Iero & The Future Violents (the band name changes every album, don’t ask), the record sees him exploring new territory and pushing himself in different directions, his career trajectory seeming to be on a continued steep incline. Whereas first album ‘stomachaches’ was a made at home in your basement lo-fi kind of affair (literally) and previous album ‘Parachutes’ was a massive leap forward production wise, ‘Barriers’ is a leap forward again. Continuing to work with the biggest named producers in the industry (Ross Robinson for ‘Parachutes’ and Steve Albini for ‘Barriers’), the sound quality and mix is top notch, allowing Frank to shine when he needs to, and the others in the band to have their stand out moments too. The most notable difference, however, is the songwriting and construction of these fourteen new numbers.

Certain songs will definitely sound familiar to those who were fans of ‘Parachutes’. There’s ‘Moto Pop’ which very much sounds like a rip off of his own ‘Dear Percocet’ and then stuff like ‘The Host’, and even the main single ‘Young And Doomed’, which feels like familiar territory. The latter provides a good bridge between the old sound and the new, perhaps released on purpose to ease listeners in to this current era because as you delve deeper into the album, there’s a whole bunch of songs which are rather different to anything you might have heard from Frank in the past.

“the record sees him exploring new territory and pushing himself in different directions…”

‘Medicine Square Garden’ initially has a really retro sort of quality to it, the first half with a groovy vibe sounding like it could be on a soundtrack to an eighties action movie with a twisted love story sub-plot. Then at the 3.50 minute marker the song totally transforms, picking up the pace and kicking into a much heavier section with a couple of sick hardcore screams thrown in for good measure. Then there’s something like ‘Police Police’ which has got this real post-punk Joy Division kinda vibe with sections of spoken word verses interspersed with heavier choruses where Frank shout-screams. It’s dramatic and eerie at times but is a great one for Frank’s vocals – this kind of song really suits him.

One of the newest additions to the band is keyboardist Kayleigh Goldsworthy, and it’s definitely brought a fresh and most welcome dynamic to the sound. The harmonies on opening track ‘A New Day’s Coming’ are lush and beautiful, and the keys which cut through and lead the thrilling rocker ‘Fever Dream’ are both haunting and addictive. Any hardcore fans of Frank’s vast musical history may have checked out his very first band Pencey Prep, way back before he became an emo icon to a generation of kids copying his haircut. The band mostly consisted of a seventeen year old angsty Frank screaming his head off, occasionally with an off-kilter keyboard riff in the background holding it all together. ‘Fever Dream’ definitely feels like a throwback to this, except for the second part of the verse (or is it the bridge?), which is more like some kind of lost Nirvana track. There’s definitely a bit of a grunge vibe thrown into the mix but it’s a great song which is bound to be a fan favourite and an awesome addition to the live set. The pit will go off.

‘Ode To Destruction’ is another one which utilises the keyboard to great effect. It opens up just keys and vocals, it’s simple and beautiful, then kicks into something heavier, with ‘Great Party’ being a further example of this. Now might be a good time to talk about Frank’s voice. Admittedly, he’s never had the strongest lead singing voice in the world, but it definitely seems to have improved on this album, or at least, he’s learning how to use it better. The vulnerability and pain he expresses through his vocal delivery – especially on tracks like ‘Great Party’, ‘The Unfortunate’ and ‘24k Lush’ – really cuts through to the point where you can feel the pain too, and if that’s not emo then nothing is. Frank’s always arguably been the most emo of his peers and ‘Barriers’ is no exception.

“…a sophisticated, mature, varied and exciting album from an artist who is continuing to grow…”

Lyrically, there is so much to unpack here but expect to hear cryptic tales of lost love, missed opportunities and shit he’s been through which still hurts and cuts him deep. “My heart needs work, it don’t know what to do,” he reflects on ‘Great Party’. “Keeps fallin in love when I should have known better. My words get stuck, so I taught myself to smile, so sick of us, hope I never get better.” Check out ‘No Love’, ‘Great Party’, ‘Medicine Square Garden’ and ‘24k Lush’ for some great examples of these kind of reflective emo love lyrics (“do you think of me/cause I hope you do…would you wait for me/as I long for you” anyone?) And if you’re looking to get really hit in the feels then ‘Six Feet Down Under’ will get you there. It’s no secret that this one’s about the road traffic accident in Australia which could easily have killed him and his bandmates back in October 2016.

There’s so much going on on the album it really takes several listens to full unravel and appreciate, but thankfully that means listeners are unlikely to get bored anytime soon, and Frank’s lyrics demand delving deeper. ‘Barriers’ is a sophisticated, mature, varied and exciting album from an artist who is continuing to grow, develop and find his own niche within the alternative rock market, becoming a force to be reckoned with in his own right. What was the name of that band he used to be in again?

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