On his third solo effort, New Jersey's own Frank Iero returned with a new moniker and supporting band -- the Future Violents -- as well as an effort that delivered his most fully realized vision to date. While still plenty dramatic, Barriers is an emotional roller coaster that clings to hurt, regret, and heartache, yet often feels oddly hopeful. Engineered and mixed by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Helmet), the set recalls Iero's early-2000s emo/hardcore heyday, corroded with some grit and grime from the '90s alt scene. Following 2016's bloody Parachutes and heavily informed by Iero's near-death car crash from that same year, Barriers not only builds upon a sound palette that he's been developing for half a decade but also exercises restraint. The result is a totally enjoyable and satisfying experience, even considering the amount of aches and pains within. Iero is joined by guitarist Evan Nestor, bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder by Death), drummer Tucker Rule (Thursday), and Kayleigh Goldsworthy (keys, violin, vocals) -- his self-described "dream band" -- who join forces to help bring the singer/songwriter's vulnerable confessionals to life with as much power and humanity as possible. They bash through "Young and Doomed" and tear through the unhinged "Moto-Pop," the latter a punk blast that features some of Iero's wildest vocal torrents. The feral "Fever Dream" lurches with corrosive riffs and Iero's howls and growls, shooting to the opposite end of the emo spectrum with the heartbreaking "The Unfortunate," which sparkles with bright piano tinkles and stirring strings. Throughout, Iero's improved vocals shine, taking on some of Conor Oberst's wounded warbling and, on a handful of tracks, Rivers Cuomo's earnestness. Additional highlights include the melodic and expansive "Medicine Square Garden" -- which is packed with evocative imagery and some of the best guitar work on Barriers -- and the doomed bop "No Love." Three albums in, Iero has made huge strides in his evolution. Lyrically dense and sonically expansive, Barriers is a deeply gratifying and fully engaging listen that tempers suffering with just enough hope to keep going.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung