Review Summary: The album as a whole is nothing amazing but a few of the individual songs would make a great addition to anyone's music library.
Atreyu has always been a band that critics loved to stomp on. The dry screaming style of Alex Varkatzas combined with the ever growing list of metalcore artists made for a nasty combination. The bands fifth studio effort "Congregation of the Damned" isn't a very big stylistic change for the band and is still surrounded by the same negativity from the critics reviewing it. It is however praised for the heavyness compared to it's predecessor "Lead Sails and a Paper Anchor."
Upon hearing of the release of this album I too went in with a very closed mind towards it figuring, "hey it's Atreyu so it will probably sound like all the other albums." I was then very surprised with the band's new found maturity towards their sound. The album is mainly thought of as "an attempt for Atreyu to please old and new fans" but I don't think that is the case. To me I see a band that teamed up with a hollywood producer and came out with a rather "polished" and "over-produced album. From that experience however, Atreyu learned better ways to combine melody with heavyness.
At first listen this album is most comparable to their 2006 album "A death-grip on yesterday." Congregation is basically a more melodic version of that but not so much that it sounds like lead sails, for the two have very different sounds.
Congregation of the Damned kicks off with the song "Stop! Before It's To Late And We'Ve Destroyed It All," an absolutly ridiculous name and the song itself is not much better than the name. It seems more like the band proving they are going back to their metalcore, screaming roots than actually making a good song. The lyrics of the song also seem like an attempt at sounding heavy when Alex screams "we spread like a ***ing disease." The song does however feature very good guitar and drum work but minimal clean vocals. Right at the songs conclusion the listener is thrown straight into "Bleeding is a luxury" which has a much better balance between singing and screaming compared to the first song. Despite the generic metal title of the song, it actually features a very good memorable chorus and a "stomp your feet" solo. At 2:24 we heard a breakdown with a whole orchestra behind it; though it sounds awkward at first, this is an idea not done very often and is very catchy. The albums title track is much more melodic than the first two but is still very cathy and full of great hooks and surprises. "Coffin nails" slows things down a bit and then "Black days begin" speeds things right back up with its heavy, crushing guitar riffs but is plagued by Poorly executed lyrics full of generic metal tones. The first half of the album is finished off with "Gallows" which kicks in with a fade in double bass pedal beat followed by more screaming. This song also features a very memorable chorus and some pretty good lyrics.
The second half of the album slowly fades in with the albums main single "Storm to pass" it features very nice work at the beginning followed by somewhat mediocre singing by Alex, quickly saved by screaming and Brandons beautifull singing voice. An all around great song but I dont think I would have chose it as the albums main single. The song is followed by three very fun (but not standout) jams: "You Were The King, Now Your Unconscious", "Insatiable" and "So wrong." Ravenous features excellent guitar work at the beginning and is sure to get your headbanging, the vocal work by both Brandon and Alex is superb and the song never lets up. It is sure to start circle pits during live shows for its crushing drum and guitar work, plus the vocals.
The albums last two songs take on a sadder tone and are both driven by clean vocals. "Lonely" has a great song structure and was placed in the perfect spot for the album. The chorus is great and is also very likely to get stuck in the listeners head. The guitar work (though not super fast) is very nice and timed great. The album is concluded with the love ballad "Wait for you" which is destined for critisism. I at first felt hostile towards the song but once I began thinking from my perspective instead of the metal communities, it proved to be quite beautifull and earned many listens on my ipod. The lyrics are great and will apply to many different situations exhibited by the listener. I encourage you to give this song a chance because though it may not be brutal, it has a great sound. It seems that Atreyu is very capable of creating a good ballad (see the theft).
The screaming is back that was almost absent in their last release and the bands sound has matured a lot since their studio debut "Suicide notes and butterfly kisses." This is a respectable album by an often non respected band that features great guitar and drum work, fantastic clean vocals and the same mediocre screaming that Atreyu fans have learned to enjoy. I would recommend listeners give this album a chance and would recommend the songs:
Bleeding Is A Luxury
You Were The King, Now Your Unconscious
Wait For You