Review Summary: While not the band’s promised magnum opus, Anberlin still delivers an excellent album better than anticipated.
Anberlin is one of the one of those bands I’ve always had a special place in my heart for. The first album I ever bought was they’re debut Blueprints For The Black Market
is one of my favorite alternative albums ever. And while New Surrender
wasn’t all that great, it had some awesome tracks and certainly wasn’t a bad album by any means. You can imagine that when I heard the band promising ridiculous things about Dark is the Way Light is a Place
, I was instantly excited. The bad news is this not band’s best album. The good news is that, while not being as good as Cities
, is still quite a good album.
▪ Stephen Christian – lead vocals
▪ Joseph Milligan – lead guitar, backing vocals
▪ Deon Rexroat – bass
▪ Nathan Young – drums
▪ Christian McAlhaney – guitar, backing vocals
The darker dynamic promised by the band is noticeable. The lack of extremely pop-rock tracks is something startling on first listens. And while a large portion of the album is mid-tempo tracks, it rarely descends into acoustic ballad territory like it’s predecessor. The album is very tense, especially in the second half of the record. The album is very epic throughout for an alternative rock record, the most noteworthy track being album closer “Depraved”. While typically following a standard verse-chorus structure, the songs on this album rely on building up to a satisfying conclusion rather than being fun.
Almost every member shows signs of very slight forward progress as musicians. While there are fewer guitar solos than New Surrender, The lead guitar work is still noteworthy throughout, and used as an extremely effective method to further the emotion the track. Stephen Christian’s yell sounds less forced and his cleaner vocals is more melodic and soothing then ever before. The rhythm guitar seems more effective then previous works, rarely relying on standard chord progressions. The area of least progression is the rhythm section. The bass is actually audible on this record, and while rarely doing anything is still nice to hear. The drumming is rather standard, but occasionally shines on tracks such as “Pray Tell” or in his fills.
What makes this album shine brightest however, is not the core instruments, but the very effective layers of effects. The album relies on a surprising amount of ambience, harmonies, overlays, and other various effects very reminiscent of 80’s era U2. Surprisingly, they pull it off very well. These effects never feel overbearing or unnecessary and the record does not feel overly processed. Instead, it helps portray the emotion in which the band was trying to display. As I hinted at above, the engineering is very good. Every instrument is very clearly heard, while never being overbearingly loud in the mix. The effects also never get in the way but help add depth to the sound.
Recommending a couple tracks is difficult, as there is not a single obvious filler track and the quality is very consistently good. I do find myself listening more to the second half of the record however, due to the more noticeable experimentation.
As a final note, my only recommendation is to listen to the stream before you buy or preorder it, as response to the album seems very mixed, people usually either loving it or hating it. While I enjoyed it greatly, others do not seem to think highly of the album.