On May 7, 2021, metalcore act Convictions dropped their fourth record titled I Won’t Survive. They released the LP completely independently after parting ways with InVogue Records, with whom they distributed their last two albums. Based in Fremont, Ohio, Convictions is made up of Michael Felker on vocals/screams, Danyal Suchta on clean vocals and bass, Joshua Canode on guitar, and Zach Schwochow on drums.
Let me start by saying that this is one of the heaviest albums I’ve ever listened to, yet it still feels musical. Convictions have found a beautiful balance between chaos and melody. I Won’t Survive is also one of the most emotional albums I’ve ever heard. Nearly every song is like a sucker-punch straight to the heart. The album is carefully constructed through three main elements: stunning choruses, breakdowns heavier than a planet, and passionate lyrics. As their tagline goes, their music is “emotion captured in noise.”
The track “The War That Followed Me Home,” starts I Won’t Survive off with a bang. This is probably one of my favorite songs on the whole album. It’s just incredibly heavy yet the dynamic shifts keep the song from getting stale. The drop in intensity to just the vocals over a clean, solo bass line at the beginning of the chorus brings tears to my eyes every time. From here, the musical aggression rarely lets up. “Wreckage” keeps the energy moving with heavy verses and a soaring chorus. The pained vocals, insane guitar tones, and rapid changes in tempo in “The Price of Grace” keep you guessing what’s next. The song “Teeth” is pretty much a two-minute breakdown while “Hurricane” features an outstanding chorus. “Hurricane” is the most radio friendly song up until about a minute and a half in where it takes a turn for the heavier. Sitting at just over two minutes, “Everything I Never Told You”, is the only respite amongst the chaos. It offers the listener a moment to take a breath before “Last Cell” closes out the album with passionate fury.
Sonically, I Won’t Survive presents a lot that I’ve never heard before. This entire album is such a creative piece of art. Much of their guitar work sounds so unusual that I can’t figure out how they created it. Often, their tones are so deep that it sounds as if they’re playing their guitars with bridge cables. They create screeches on their instruments the likes of which were initially unfamiliar to me and they frequently layer hauntingly ambient sounds underneath their brutal riffs so their music never comes across as empty or lacking. Felker’s screams are yet another aspect that was foreign to me. He perfectly captures the pain, sadness, and rage that the lyrics depict. His lows make the earth shake and yet he can shout in such a distorted way that it nearly sounds like static. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked their style. There was so much raw noise that I didn’t know how to pull it apart and examine it. As I continued to listen to their music I’ve really begun to appreciate the production and complexity it contains. The extremeness of their sound embodies the turmoil in their lyrics.
Just as I Won’t Survive sounds raw and untamed, the lyrics are even more so. For this album, Convictions took it upon themselves to delve into the darkest parts of life and write from the perspective inside the pain. In each song, the speaker is at a point in their life where it seems as if they won’t survive (thus the album title). The track “Teeth” sums up the theme of the album best, “through our suffering we are all connected.”
The topics range from struggling with suicidal thoughts to the difficulty that war veterans face when returning home. “Last Cell” is from the perspective of a young father dying of cancer. The character in the song addresses his message “To my daughter I’ll leave behind.” In it, he laments that he won’t be there for her when she needs him, from her first steps to her wedding day. Many of the experiences are based on true stories. “The Price of Grace,” for example, comes directly from a personal friend of Convictions named CJ and how he grappled with the suicide of his best friend. The song places the listener inside that very moment of confusion and heartache. CJ’s voice features in the bridge of the song.
The intensity of the messages makes I Won’t Survive stand out. The album is a cathartic experience, meant to help those suffering from similar circumstances as well as evoke compassion and understanding from those outside of the pain.
My Final Thoughts
Before I Won’t Survive, I was never a big fan of Convictions. I had heard some of their songs, but nothing stuck out to me. I didn’t dislike them necessarily, I just wasn’t an advocate. As I delved into I Won’t Survive, the more I listened to it the more I appreciated it. There’s so much depth and complexity to this album beyond what meets the ear at first listen, from musical textures to meanings in the lyrics. Clocking in at 25 and a half minutes with just 7 songs, at first I wished the album was longer. However, after listening to it more, I think this is the perfect length. Due to the sheer intensity and emotional heaviness of the album, any more and it would be too much.
I would advise anyone who hasn’t listened to I Won’t Survive to give it a chance. Let the ferocity of the music sink in. Afterwards, listen to it again with the lyrics in front of you. When I did, there were multiple times where I found myself holding back tears, I was so moved. Convictions has created a masterpiece with I Won’t Survive. I believe that it’s an album whose messages and themes will never die.