Review Summary: Finally.
Anberlin are one of those bands in which I've just come to expect great material from them with each release. Every two years or less we are graced with another breathtaking album from the alternative rockers. However, as impressive as their last few albums were they still haven't quite been able to match the stellar Cities
, at least not until now. This is partly thanks to the return of producer Aaron Sprinkle who helped spice up their older albums, but the band have also grown as musicians and songwriters. They've yet to put out a bad release, and Vital
displays some of the most solid musicianship in the band's entire catalogue. As fans everywhere are likely to proclaim, the band has finally made the album that has the potential to top Cities
could very well be the most coherent album Anberlin have ever created. It flawlessly mixes the mature sound of their last release with the more upbeat and fun Anberlin we heard on albums like Never Take Friendship Personal
. Stephen Christian has always been an amazing singer, but the beauty of his voice reaches new heights on their exciting sixth full length. He especially shines on songs like 'Other Side' and 'Modern Age'. The production is also top notch and the guitars and drums are as impressive as ever. The opening track 'Self-Starter' begins with a jaw dropping drum intro while the second song 'Little Tyrants' shows off flashy guitar work. As usual, Christian adjusts his vocals to fit the more aggressive songs, yet he's not afraid to sing like an angel on others. His voice is also tweaked with electronics in a few songs which proves to be undeniably catchy, but thankfully it is done sparingly.
As expected on an Anberlin release, many of the tracks are highly uplifting and meaningful. Much like their other albums, Vital
contains a grand finale of a closer in the form of 'God, Drugs, and Sex'. It's a slow paced six minute ballad that features female guest vocals which sound amazing alongside Christian's best performance on the record. Another standout is the cheery 'Modern Age' which manages to pack a punch, being equally catchy and beautiful. It's filled with optimistic lyrics like "Don't we all wan't to be loved?" At it's core, the song is about overcoming insecurities and suggests it's better to have companionship than to be in silence. Anberlin have always been an uplifting band and this album continues that tradition in the best possible way.
Truth be told, it's too soon to say if Vital
will have the lasting appeal of the outstanding Cities
, but it's certainly possible. I can't remember the last time the band sounded this good. Fortunately, the variety of the more straight forward rockers and the somber ballads helps prevent the experience from growing stale. The album's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close. It is held back only by a few brief but slow moments. That doesn't keep it from being an essential record however. In fact, it is one of the most impressive releases of 2012 so far, proving to critics everywhere that Cities
wasn't a fluke and the band is still a fearsome force to be reckoned with.