Review Summary: Despite its best intentions, Congregation of the Damned is just another Atreyu album fueled by dated ideas and repetitive songwriting.
Atreyu's popularity has always been more a matter of timing than due to things like skill and quality. Born from the same pool of pissed off suburban teenagers that spawned Bleeding Through, Avenged Sevenfold, and Eighteen Visions, the Orange County quintet's seemingly unwarranted rise to popularity was driven by the accessibility of their watered down take on Metalcore. For many kids, the albums Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses
and The Curse
were stepping stones into heavy music, only to be almost entirely discarded except for the occasional, nostalgic spin of “Lip Gloss and Black” in favor of thousands of better bands. To expand on the mainstream acceptance that had come via their place as a gateway act, Atreyu's fourth album, 2007's Lead Sails Paper Anchor
, saw the band try their hand at full on radio-centric Arena Rock (which, for the most part, worked). Despite the loss of some old fans still clinging to their memories of 2002, Lead Sails Paper Anchor
changed Atreyu from a band that was embraced by enough fourteen year-olds dressed in black to have a high charting release to a band seeing mainstream success.
It's clear that Congregation of the Damned
, Atreyu's fifth full-length release, is an attempt to please both new and old fans, and in the process be the
album that sums up exactly what Atreyu are all about. To an extent, it does just that. For those that find some level of enjoyment from Atreyu, there is bound to be something on Congregation of the Damned
that will tickle your fancy. And as Atreyu's attempt to define their career in a nutshell, Congregation of the Damned
displays just about about everything that they are about, be it mediocre Metalcore or mediocre co
The heavier numbers on the album reinforce Atreyu's penchant for unoriginal ideas. The opener, "Stop! Before It's Too Late and We've Destroyed It All", is a blatant rip off of In Flames (something Atreyu have done in the past: see “Right Side of the Bed” versus “The Hive”) from the plodding chords in the verse to the hypermelodic chorus and Alex's vocals that are reminiscent of Anders Friden at his worst. With “Bleeding is a Luxury”, Atreyu take their Metalcore side and add an unnecessary dose of cheese to it, adding banal keyboard harmonies to an already tiring mix of chug and alternate picking. As if that wasn't enough, the track is also home to one of the numerous open string breakdowns that litter Congregation of the Damned
in a half-assed attempt to show that Atreyu haven't lost their balls--this begs the question, how do you lose what you never had in the first place?
The songs that root themselves in the mainstream fare no better than their heavier brethren; everything about the arena rock Atreyu is overbearingly repetitive. Tracks like “Insatiable”, “Black Days Begin”, and “You Were The King; Now You're Unconscious” are all centered around soaring choruses that drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller just can't sell. His vocals sound just as forced as ever and his lack of range shows through even more given his added presence. It is one of the few times that one wishes Alex Varkatzas would chime in with his croaky throat screams just to add an extra dimension in the vocal department. Ironically, for a band trying to show off that they can still be heavy, one of Congregation of the Damned
's few positive moments comes from the ridiculously poppy “Lonely”. Feeling more akin to the lightest moments on Lead Sails...
, it is perfectly fit for mass consumption. By toning down their guitars to only power chords and simple leads, Atreyu have penned a fist-pumpingly good rock anthem that could easily climb its way up the charts.
Despite its best intentions, Congregation of the Damned
is just another Atreyu album fueled by dated ideas and repetitive songwriting. The end result is a mediocre showing regardless of what side of Atreyu is on display.