Anberlin
Vital


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 16th, 2012 | 1582 replies | 90,819 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Anberlin smartly evolves while continuing to solidify their position as one of the best alternative rock bands around.

Anberlin have always known exactly who they are. It’s why everything from Blueprints For The Black Market to Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place has sounded completely unflappable. The band remained steadfast in their approach for so long that they’ve managed to release a “three-peat” of commercially successful alternative rock albums, including the revered Cities – an album that they unwittingly turned into a perpetually unattainable milestone. Sure, slight modifications have been implemented along the way...Never Take Friendship Personal grit its teeth to show the band’s slightly more aggressive side, while their latest efforts have pushed in more of an anthemic, stadium-filling direction. As we approach Anberlin’s sixth full-length piece, we find them in the midst of their most noticeable departure – a passionately resonating, electronic-underscored tour de force that somehow never betrays their true essence.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really, for a group that has managed to remain astoundingly consistent across a discography that now spans almost an entire decade. The reaction of long-time fans might be something like, “this is amazing, as if they would give us anything less.” Little time was wasted in evoking such a reaction, with the energy-brimming ‘Self-Starter’ doing just what it implies via an incredible opening drum sequence, high-strung electric guitars, and Stephen Christian’s electronically-altered vocals. There’s a lot of that kind of thing on Vital, a record that boasts heavy use of electronics without ever completely relying on it. The awe-inspiring atmosphere on ‘Other Side’ never would have come to fruition had it not been for this; nor would the ethereal intros that surface on songs like ‘Type 3.’ We’ve witnessed enough in the past to foreshadow such a progression – the oddly infectious synth line in ‘There Is No Mathematics to Love or Loss’ from five years ago, and the reverberated backbeat featured in ‘Art of War’ a mere two years back. But despite the evidence hanging right within our line of sight, an evolution this profound still manages to shake us to the core; resplendently exploding into aesthetically pleasing waves of sound every time we expect Christian & co. to settle back into their old, familiar groove.

Much to its benefit, though, Vital isn’t completely about the slick and smoothed over. For all of its electronic and production tactics, there’s still a comforting sense of true identity – of core foundation – that outshines most of the album’s experimental qualities. There’s not a single Anberlin fan (who’s been around long enough to bang his or her head to ‘Godspeed’, anyway) that won’t find ‘Little Tyrants’ to be equally infectious. With a straight-forward rock approach featuring heavy riffs and plenty of howling oh-oh-oh’s, the song aptly preserves the momentum created by opener ‘Self-Starter.’ Perhaps more importantly, it lays to waste the kind of “faux-heaviness” of tracks such as ‘We Owe This To Ourselves’, where the band used fast tempos and semi-defiant lyrics as a disguise for Christian’s lacking vocal aggression. On Vital, Christian is as close as he’s ever come to reverting to his Never Take Friendship Personal days, and that’s a prospect that should excite anyone who thought New Surrender and Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place were dulled down by the vocalist’s strict reliance on agreeable, melodic vocals. Then there’s ‘God, Drugs & Sex’, an epic closer certain to conjure memories of the band’s crowning achievement off of Cities, ‘Fin.’ Clocking in at just over six minutes, it delicately weaves Stephen Christian’s most angelic of vocals in with Christine DuPree’s, a duet that proves to be quite mesmerizing when laid over top of the slow, echoing drum beat that dictates the song’s momentum. It doesn’t touch ‘Fin’, but the ballad’s lush atmosphere is more than enough to send Vital floating off to the sky in gorgeous but stark contrast to the style in which it arrived.

Even if it isn’t the best album they’ve ever made, Vital is perhaps the smartest. Here Anberlin evolves, trading some of their of rock n’ roll grit for a smooth, electronic-influenced sound that better suits Stephen Christian’s pure, otherworldly vocals. The pop-leaning traits of New Surrender and, more distinctively, Dark Is the Way, Light Is A Place, are present in the sleeker (and bolder) sounding production, but they don’t overpower the raw aspects of the music like they used to. Their core sound, if slightly altered, still remains intact – with sweeping strings, full-sounding acoustics, and compelling electronic components acting as the new driving force behind Christian’s breathtaking vocals. It’s a new era for Anberlin, one that both new fans and diehards should have no problem agreeing upon.



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user ratings (649)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Bramladesh
October 15th 2012


55 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. I agree %100.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The stream for those of you who haven't been paying attention:

http://kroq.cbslocal.com/anberlin-vital-exclusive-album-stream/

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Tremendous review Sowing. I agree with so many individual sentences here & they really are terrifically worded... One of your best, I think.

If there was any minor criticism (& it really is nit-picking), I'm unsure you sell the 4.5 rating from an objective viewpoint... But then again, that may just be because I'm stuck in-between ratings myself.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was thinking 4 the whole time and at the end I re-read my review, said screw it, and slapped on a half a star for good measure/growth potential

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 15th 2012


9034 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Stealing my feature fuck you.
Just kidding, love you Sowing. I'm just inebriated.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"...slapped on a half a star for good measure..." Such a nice guy!

ProjectFreak
October 15th 2012


1345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review, i don't think this is quite as good as you say (second half kinda doesn't work for me), but it's easily their best since Cities, and Self-Starter is one of the best songs of the year.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 15th 2012


9034 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Second half is better than the first half though

Rev
October 15th 2012


9422 Comments


I've never really cared for these guys' albums on a whole outside of Cities, although I love their singles


I take it this is pretty consistent throughout? How does it compare to DITW, LIAP?



and great review sowing, glad to have you as a part of mezz crew haha

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh so now I'm a nice guy and not an A-wipe or whatever you completely seriously called me earlier

Bastard

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stealing my feature fuck you.
Just kidding, love you Sowing. I'm just inebriated.


So all I need to do now is get Jeremy drunk so that he'll make me a mod ;)

Tremendous review Sowing. I agree with so many individual sentences here & they really are terrifically worded... One of your best, I think.

Aww thanks Davey. I ignored your minor criticism. Fuck that.

great review, i don't think this is quite as good as you say (second half kinda doesn't work for me), but it's easily their best since Cities, and Self-Starter is one of the best songs of the year.

Thanks Project, and yeah this is like a low 4.5/high 4 but I've always had an Anberlin fetish

Second half is better than the first half though
^I agree with this

glad to have you as a part of mezz crew haha

my pleasure mate



Ire
October 15th 2012


41764 Comments


does this album have any WAIORR... WAIORRR.. backing vocals like the previous album?

Ignimbrite
October 15th 2012


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, this is definitely their best since Cities. Great review.

tiesthatbind
October 15th 2012


7374 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review and completely agreed. I'm blown away by how good this album is.

Digging: xSPONGEXCOREx - How Tough Are Yah?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks brite, ties

It's hard for me to say where this falls. I loved Dark is the Way and New Surrender, and I love this. None of them match up to Cities, however.

ProjectFreak
October 15th 2012


1345 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sowing, you're currently the only person I've known to agree with me on that

but man i'm already bumping my rating up and this thing hasn't even released yet. growth potential seems large, even if it's not AOTY material (but I once thought that about Cities so...)

KjSwantko
October 15th 2012


9277 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"I loved Dark is the Way and New Surrender, and I love this. None of them match up to Cities, however."

Fully agree.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2012


15976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have no idea what my end of year list is going to look like to be honest. There's stuff I rated a 4.5 that I'd now rate like a 3.5, and vice versa. Next year I'll have to do a better job of rating...but this year, pretty much any album in the 3.5-5 range could be on there depending on how it grows on/off me in the mean time.

Definite inclusions will be Swans, GY!BE, Converge, Yellowcard, The Tallest Man on Earth, Regina Spektor, Mewithoutyou, probably this, and probably Ghost Mice

Ire
October 15th 2012


41764 Comments


answer my question plz

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT FROM MEEE

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
October 15th 2012


1477 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice. Adding this to my to do list.



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