March 25, 2019 I Prevail – Trauma (Album Review)
Sometimes it’s okay not to be okay, to break down, and to fall apart. Here to remind you that being human is a struggle, I Prevail present the hard-hitting Trauma, their sophomore full-length. The good folks at Fearless Records deliver the highly-anticipated disc, which arrives on Friday, March 29, 2019.
Formed in Michigan in 2013, I Prevail initially gained notice via a YouTube video of the band covering Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” The cover would go on to be featured in the popular Fearless Records’ series Punk Goes Pop (Vol. 6), building excitement for the band’s full-length debut, Lifelines, which arrived in 2016. Already headlining their own tours and with an impressive name for themselves, the band have shared stages with a myriad of bands including Pop Evil, Pierce the Veil, Escape the Fate, The Word Alive, The White Noise, and many, many more. They are also veterans of the Vans Warped Tour, and most recently performed at the 2019 Download Festival.
Now, the Gold-certified I Prevail — Vocalists Brian Burkheiser and Eric Vanlerberghe, Guitarists Steve Menoian and Dylan Bowman, and Drummer Gabe Helguera — are ready to present their sophomore full-length collection, Trauma. Working alongside Producer Tyler Smyth of dangerkids, who is a talented producer that has collaborated with the likes of Blessthefall and Falling In Reverse, they present a 13-song collection that almost did not happen.
To put it simply, suffering from a debilitating vocal injury that sidelined him for weeks, Burkheiser retreated inward and began to dip into a world of self-doubt, anxiety, and, understandably, mental stress. Struggling to tread water, he began to consider the idea of leaving the band. Thankfully, he was able to bounce back to sing another day. With the future of I Prevail resolved, Burkheiser and co. went into the studio to make an unapologetic collection, one that explores varying soundscapes while offering confessional, deeply personal, and emotive lyrics. I Prevail, it’s safe to say, are here to stay!
Trauma explodes into “Bow Down,” a blend of ferocious verses and soaring choruses crafted in the name of defiance. With Djent-y bass grooves and infectious hooks, the track is the perfect opening to a disc that goes big on angsty emotions and perfectly contrasting soaring melodies.
Blending outrageously catchy Hip-Hop and electronic flourishes into the mix, “Paranoid” portrays a dual-minded mental struggle, the moment when we know that something isn’t right deep inside our psyches. Part self-awareness, part cry for help, the track, much like the entire album, blends a million styles to keep listeners on their toes.
This does not necessary segue properly into the next track, but that’s alright. Ballad “Every Time You Leave” is a beautifully emotional duet between Burkheiser and talented Singer-Songwriter Delaney Jane, a confession that an on/off relationship is biting off little pieces of its participants’ hearts. As it fades, they return to their usual, fiercer sound on “Rise Above It,” which features the fiery raps of Justin Stone.
Echoes of “Paranoid” permeate the core of “Breaking Down,” a sludgy addiction to pain and self-loathing (“I don’t really like myself”) that weaves around massively catchy choruses. Stylistically, it might have been interesting to see “Paranoid” open the album and its brother, “Breaking Down,” close it; creating bookends to the collection. Instead, as they stand, they are similarly-themed tracks that reflect the mental struggles and self-doubt that sit at the very heart of Trauma.
“DOA” demands that you clap-along to its beat, while the rager “Gasoline” gets a coughing start before it goes into a vicious maelstrom of killing, burning, and giving absolutely no fucks. To counter this, the melodically powerful “Hurricane” personifies the calm before the storm and goes for a more self-reflective look at being lost inside your own mind, though it fights to see beyond the self-doubt.
These reflective moments continue into the pleas of ballad “Let Me Be Sad,” a candid confession that it’s okay to not smile all the time. Somewhat similar in its dark mood, the insanely catchy attack of “Low” confesses “Even when I’m high I still feel low.” Meanwhile, at just under two minutes, “Goodbye” falls somewhere between a short Hip Hop/Pop offering and an interlude; a clipped confession that hits heavy in the feels. While it doesn’t necessarily fit within its location in the track listing, it’s not a bad offering.
Lest you fear that I Prevail are going soft, they amp it back up to frenetic for the Hardcore, heavy-hitting verses of “Deadweight.” Dusting off negativity and cutting ties to avoid being dragged down, they show that sometimes burning bridges is necessary for our own survival. They end with the acoustics and synths of atmospheric ballad “I Don’t Belong Here,” which shows a raw, emotional side to the band and reads like a page out of a diary. A beautiful display of the wispier side of I Prevail, it ends the collection by displaying another facet of their personality, one that borders on Pop sensibilities.
The core of Trauma is sadness and frustration, self-doubt and personal reflection. While other albums tackle the same subject matters with a ridiculously unnatural hopefulness, I Prevail inject a realism into their troubles that is fully relatable. Whether breaking down or taking the time to be sad, the band are infectious, with delicious hooks and a non-conformist approach to their sound. Inherently heavy, they experiment freely to show that they have an eclectic array of influences, and they will not rest idly inside one clear-cut categorization.
As the album’s accompanying bio states: “Rock music relies on reinvention.” I Prevail do that continuously throughout Trauma. While there are no blatant misses, a few of the tracks feel a bit repetitive while occasionally the track listing feels a bit schizophrenic, much like the human mind in times of stress. Certainly the theme of mental struggle is driven home throughout, making Trauma a personal album, one that is chock-full of raw confessions. You can’t fault unfiltered honesty, and so Cryptic Rock give I Prevail’s Trauma 4 of 5 stars.