Review: Panic! At The Disco – Viva Las Vengeance

Viva Las Vengeance is a shockingly brilliant album. Brendon Urie and Panic! At The Disco have conquered almost everything there is between the emo scene and the glitzing echelon of the pop world. Instead of trying to outdo quite possibly his best album, Pray For The Wicked, Urie swerved and presented us something far deeper, angrier, and more personal than anything he’s released thus far. Viva Las Vengeance is a Broadway fever dream that channels the sleepless nights when everyone who has done you wrong haunts your dreams with the whimsical beauty only Panic! could deliver.

Viva Las Vengeance is a low-key answer to the band’s divisive sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. This is what Panic!’s second album could have been if they had stylized themselves after classic glam rock instead of The Beatles. 

You can buy or stream Viva Las Vengeance on Apple Music

Because of that, Viva Las Vengeance sounds like Hellogoodbye tried their hand at channeling Queen, adapted it into a Broadway show, and then let Brendon Urie run loose vocally. He shows off the extent of his vocal range while exorcizing demons he’s held since the age of 17 and writing a semi-concept album.

The record is stripped back in terms of what Panic! has written previously. Production lacks the over-the-top glamor and polish associated with a worldwide headliner, but it is astoundingly clean. Every instrument shines through with absurd perfection. Orchestral parts proliferate the album, from swirling violins and frantic trumpets (“Something About Maggie”) to the tambourine almost acting as the main instrument during the chorus (“Local God”). People talk in the background. The results are a lively album that breathes and swoons.

Urie also went off the deep end with time changes and thematic tonal diversions from song to song. After the second chorus in “Sad Clown”, for example, the music tempers itself while the violins and piano swell, almost as if it were the music played during a fight in Final Fantasy. Or in the case of “Something About Maggie”, the music is constantly interrupted by the deep voices of inner conflict before the heavily orchestral pop song sways to become the sound of madness for 15 seconds before resuming the cheery atmosphere it previously bore.

Viva Las Vengeance will be something that people either absolutely adore or hate, much like a stage show. Either way, it feels more personal than anything Urie has ever written. Sandwiched between the lyrics “‘Shut up and go to bed,’ she said,” Urie gets the grievances that have followed him for years off his chest during his rise to fame. Everything on the album is what keeps him up at night.

I saw Panic! perform as an opening act for Blink-182 just a couple of weeks after songwriter Ryan Ross’s departure. Urie stood still on stage in a suit, looking stunned and dejected, as if he were lost. Just a couple years later, he was one of the biggest names in the world, backflipping topless across the stage. At the pinnacle of his stardom, Urie finally seems to have let go of the anger he’d been holding back all along.

It’s in the appropriately named title track that Urie kicks off his ode to Pretty. Odd., Ross’s dream album. “Someone did me wrong, stole my favorite song / Yes, it really hurt”, he sings before chiming, “I don’t wanna be a diva, I just wanna be free / On a sofa with sativa, living the dream.”

“Local God” addresses Ross directly (“You had so many chances to become a star, but you never really cared about that”) as well as the hard early days of the band (“We signed a record deal at 17, hated by every local band”). 

“Sad Clown” goes through the struggles of either Urie or possibly former drummer Spencer Smith with addiction and the need to break free (“I pop a pill to feel euphoria / Five minutes, 10 minutes to half an hour / But not the rest of my life / Leave me alone”). 

Meanwhile, “Say It Louder”, a thunderous rock anthem, shows the stresses of having achieved the fame Urie always set out to gain as he sings, “Everybody hates you now, but don’t you let it break you down / Breakin’ out of your small town, show them what you’re all about”.

In the midst of everything, there’s also possibly a conceptual story involving a ‘God’ (“Local God”, “God Killed Rock and Roll”), a ‘King’ and playing music for the downcast (“Star Spangled Banger”), but looking too deep into it made my head hurt. All I know for sure is that “Star Spangled Banger” is the first song Panic! has ever released that I hope to never hear again. 

Viva Las Vengeance is astounding in many ways. It attacks and overachieves at the idea of what Pretty. Odd. could have been. It’s angry and resentful. It’s elegant, beautiful and so over-the-top that it’s impossible to take seriously as anything other than absolute magic. Panic! At The Disco continue to experiment and remix themselves so deeply it’s hard not to be in absolute awe of the results.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is curious how early is too early to put up Halloween decorations in good taste.

Most Anticipated of 2021: Panic! At the Disco Claim the Dancefloor

Check out our podcast episode breaking down our most anticipated music of 2021!

It’s been almost three years since Panic! At the Disco released the absolutely stellar Pray For The Wicked, but Brendon Urie isn’t one to sit idle for too long. Coming off the high of what is arguably Panic’s best record, it’s hard to imagine that anything can top Pray For The Wicked. 

Fortunately though, Brendon Urie is full of surprises. Having brought Panic! back from the brink of collapse, expanded the band’s sound in unimaginable ways and lifted the group to become one of the world’s biggest acts over the last decade, he isn’t one to take lightly. With each album carrying a distinct and unique persona and sound, it’s hard not to be excited for whatever comes next.

Panic! At the Disco is a band that universally delivers in a way that almost no other musical act can. Whatever Urie has planned for the band’s seventh album, it’s destined to once again push the band’s boundaries and force other pop acts to up their game just to keep up.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and sneezed, then his cat sneezed, then he sneezed again. A sign of the end times or just exceptional timing between man and beast? The answer, is yes.

Review: Panic! At the Disco – Pray For The Wicked

No one has had a career in show business quite like Panic! At the Disco. After being the biggest band in the country, they fell into near obscurity until Brendon Urie reforged the band’s direction to that of pop super stardom. Show business has always blossomed from P!AtD in extravagant measure. Pray For The Wicked is a loose concept album about the trials and tribulations of not only the music industry, but show business as a whole. In doing so, Brendon Urie has crafted the most thematic album of the band’s career and reinvigorated themselves amongst pop’s elite.

You can buy Pray for the Wicked on Apple Music.

Death of a Bachelor didn’t sit well with me. While the direction was enviable, there was something that didn’t feel genuine about it. However, Pray For The Wicked follows a similar sonic arc. Crisp percussion and powerful pop beats dominate the music. While the record is powered by synth, R&B elements, disco-style guitar and wicked bass lines, there is a shockingly adept orchestra that adds incredible life to the music. It’s a near perfect mixture that makes the music sound, in many ways, timeless across eras and genre.

Similarly, elements of almost every Panic! at the Disco album can be heard. Though it may not seem like as big of a leap stylistically as something like Pretty. Odd., Pray For The Wicked actually sounds like the culmination of everything the band has done up until this point. In many ways, the album reminded me of Taylor Swift’s 1989, when it finally dawns on you that not only did they make the full switch to pop superstar, but did it tremendously.

While the album is a massive pop banger, the musicianship is astonishingly good. No two songs sound alike, but each is ready to make you dance just as much with the beat as they are with the brass and string instruments soaring over the intense bass. But while these songs celebrate the glamour of modern music, they take an equally harsh dig at the industry as a whole. Themes of celebrating the party carry over from Death of a Bachelor, but they carry the weight of industry that sits just beneath the surface.

“(Fuck a) Silver Lining” starts by showing the frustration and obsession with writing a new hit, having an album go gold and settling for nothing less. Urie seems jubilant as he sings, “Fuck a silver lining / cause only gold is hot enough, hot enough / One more, one more”.

“Hey Look Ma, I Made It” is the most direct attack on the industry. Urie begins lamenting working for a label and the pressure of living up to fan expectation. “Cause I’m a hooker selling songs / And my pimp’s a record label…..Are you ready for the sequel? / Ain’t ready for the latest? / In the garden of evil / I’m gonna be the greatest”. Then, as soon as the severely upbeat chorus kicks in, Urie bellows, “Hey look ma, I made it / Everything’s coming up aces, aces / And if it’s a dream, don’t wake me”.

Tried and true staples still exist, such as second shots at ill-fated relationships (“The Overpass”), flamboyant parties reeking of youth and liquor (“Roaring 20’s”) and the longing for simpler times that comes with age (“Old Fashioned”).

However, every song ties back to the glamour and heartbreak of show business. Nothing shows it more, or ties it all together, quite like the closing ballad, “Dying in LA”. The song describes both the dreams of up-and-comers and the sacrifice of a normal life anyone hoping for success must endure. There is a heartbreak as Urie finds his inner Regina Spektor and croons, “Every face along the boulevard / Is a dreamer just like you / You looked at death in a tarot card / And you saw what you had to do”.

Pray For The Wicked is arguably the most cohesive album Panic! At The Disco have released. The “emo” angst has been replaced with the brutal truth of finding success. Where other bands would sing about following your dreams of punk rock, Urie chooses instead to forge a warning for the prices that have to be paid to be more than a one hit wonder. In the end, that could be the most panicky thing Panic! At the Disco has ever done.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has spent over half of this writing session shoving the cat away from his glass of water. What a cretin.