Vinnie Caruana is perhaps best known as the front man for The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche; however, over the past several years he has steadily been making a name for himself as a solo artist . This spring Caruana released his debut full length, Survivor’s Guilt. What makes Survivor’s Guilt so memorable is the unrelenting passion Caruana imparts into each note. His recognizably gruff vocals, the meandering melodies, the stories he shares – each contributes to an album that drives home the darker themes of life and loss while maintaining hope for the future.
Songs like “Burn It Down” and “Survivor’s Guilt” touch upon periods of stagnancy within Caruana’s life. “Burn It Down” is a flash in the pan: short, fast, and with melodies firmly rooted in the singer’s punk background. He sings of feeling guilty for wasting too much time on not truly living (“Wishing you were dead/’Cause you never lived”) and wanting to start over. “Survivor’s Guilt” takes those feelings a step further, and shows how Caruana’s guilt stems from not utilizing the time he’s given when others are buried all too soon.
He also sings of love or, more specifically, the aftermath of a failed marriage and his inability to believe that he could ever love again. “I Don’t Believe You” takes listeners to the end of the relationship, where Caruana finds “the furniture stacked by the door.” The track is fast and borderline bitter, though Caruana’s pain is underscored by a bluesy guitar riff that culminates in a pensive solo.
Caruana reconciles with his feelings in “Under My Side Of The Bed.” He describes feeling broken following his divorce (“I told everyone/That I never wanted this/I couldn’t handle love again”), and his trepidation upon falling for someone new (“I’ll aways stay/If you promise the same”). The song’s clean, acoustic intro/outro melodies are a welcome change from Caruana’s typically rougher sound, and the track as a whole shows a softer side of Caruana, despite maintaining an air of self-deprecating humor (“My worst days are still okay/Because you’re in them/You’ll have to deal with me forever”).
The biggest surprise on Survivor’s Guilt is the album’s nearly full instrumental closing track. “You Religion Is Killing Me” is brooding and dark, conveying more emotion with barely a word than some bands manage in an entire album. The slow burning build, the shrieking distortion, the faint moaning of the bass – all of this gives “Your Religion Is Killing Me” an unsettled and ominous feeling that listeners will be hard-press to shake long after the song and album have ended.
Survivor’s Guilt flows from one track to the next almost seamlessly, making it all too easy to get lost in the album’s rolling melodies and sobering stories. Though this ultimately adds to the overall experience it also often makes it harder to distinguish between songs, and can make the album feel longer than it is. However, nitpicking aside, Survivor’s Guilt is a solid debut from Caruana and will keep fans old and new coming back.