Editor’s note: This review could be potentially triggering to people with suicidal thoughts, PTSD, addiction, and other mental health concerns. We believe hope is real and life is worth living. If you are hurting, find the right help. You’re worth it.
Metal has never been a genre to shy away from difficult topics. It explores the deeper, darker questions of the human story. Ohio-based Convictions is no different, and, on their latest release I Won’t Survive, they deliver a much-needed discussion about mental health, addiction, pain, heartache, and the reality of hope. I spoke with the band about this part of the album’s purpose:
“I Won’t Survive is a collection of true survival stories ranging from PTSD, grief, addiction, cancer, and suicide. These songs were written through interviews conducted throughout a two-year period. We wanted to learn more about the turning point in these stories and (about) what these survivors felt and experienced at their lowest (point) to overcome and survive. Our goal is to highlight positive mental health and share the hope we believe God has for our lives.”
I Won’t Survive is the fourth full-length album from the metalcore act, and it is riveting, chilling, and sobering. This is not a feel-good record, but it certainly isn’t one of despair, either. The themes of hope and redemption fill the story in their entirety, a reminder that hope is real and that God has not abandoned us.
Musically, it’s a near-masterpiece. It’s heavy, emotional, and laden with riveting vocals that push the album through from start to finish. With the first track, “The War That Followed Me Home,” Convictions unleash a brutal attack in a ballad recounting a soldier’s struggle with PTSD, reliving the horrors of war. They do not pull any punches with driving vocals and a story that leaves you feeling sucker-punched with the real, lived-in experiences so many people experience as a result of their time in the armed forces.
“Wreckage,” a song that wrestles with the heavy topic of suicide from the vantage point of a soul desperately crying out to God for hope in the darkness, can leave you with a tactile discomfort. At one point, vocalist Michael Felker says to God, “Where are You when I’m struck by serpents / when depression breaks the surface / when I’m cold, when I’m lying unconscious?” It feels like a callback to Job’s experience with suffering as written in the Scriptures. The song concludes in desperate cries to God for hope in the midst of the pain. Despite the heartache in the vocals on this track, the very real hope for life is the resounding theme of the album in its entirety.
The musical and lyrical journey Convictions delivers will not leave you feeling that the album is incomplete. “Everything I Never Told You” is an instrumental mirror of the peaceful stillness the human spirit longs for deep within. It’s a beautiful addition to an otherwise heavy record, balancing the emotions driven by the first half of the album.
“Last Cell” concludes the album with a furious summation, feeling a curious heaviness and gently inspired with hope in the face of life’s difficulties. It’s a heavy ending to an even heavier record, but the songs are a reminder that hope is real, life is worth living, and God is still with us.