When your band is best known for a Pop Goes Punk cover, it’s fair to not have high expectations for their debut full-length. For Michigan’s I Prevail, their “Blank Spaces” cover, while fine, showcased a talented band somewhat lacking in personality. It’s an affliction that affects many new post-hardcore groups, as there are just too many bands with big choruses and bigger breakdowns, so it’s really difficult to stand out and make an impression. Thankfully, I Prevail is able to leave a mark through Lifelines; the problem is that it’s a real mixed bag.
What’s arguably most problematic is the band puts its absolute best foot forward, with “Scars” showcases Brian Burkheiser’s pristine pop-punk vocals and some massively addictive riffing. Much like fellow punk-y hardcore groups like The Ghost Inside, Stick To Your Guns, and (most obviously) A Day To Remember, when I Prevail is at its best, the group deftly combines curb-stomping grooves with arena-ready choruses. Other sonic standouts include “Chaos” and “Already Dead” hit similar points, where it feels like a pop-punk group were told to study up on modern metalcore and give it their best shot. Unfortunately, the latter track hits at a big problem throughout the album: the lyrics. When they aren’t riddled with generic uplifting platitudes (their name is I Prevail for a reason), the band resort to some awful lines. The chorus of “Already Dead” features this poetic wonder: “If I could bring you back to life, I would kill you again.” I’m no T.S. Eliot, but so much of what I Prevail is trying to say falls flat. In the more positive notes, hopefully the message is helpful, but Lifelines isn’t the best vessel for said advice.
Further, I Prevail is perfectly fun and partially impressive when they indulge their heavier side; however, when the band embraces their pop-punk side fully, the results are not great. “Stuck In Your Head” isn’t mentally infectious, and I hope I don’t have to hear “One More Time” another time. The less said about the bad attempts at balladry (“Alone” and “My Heart I Surrender”) the better. This means that much of the record is too slow or lacking in a proper punch, making for a frustratingly uneven listen. I Prevail are a talented band, and their hooks, riffs, and breakdowns are solid, but they haven’t quite broken through yet. Here’s hoping they learn from their mistakes on this inconsistent debut.