Review Summary: After improving in almost every way possible, Anberlin's vocal delivery has this album feeling like anything but vital.
Over ten years ago, I was introduced to a band that I believed were teeming with potential. Comprised of members whose beliefs were strongly Christ-ocentric, it was easy to see where their inspiration came from. In response to what they had experienced in their lives 'in the world', Anberlin garnered moderate praise and attention for 'Blueprints of the Black Market'. Truly succeeding this rather surprising debut with 'Cities' and its slightly less polished sequel 'New Surrender', the quintet established themselves at the forefront of their respective genre. After having spiced things up with 'Dark is the Way, Light is a Place', an essential break from the tried and true, Anberlin returns with 'Vital'.
Unfortunately, like every other follow-up to Cities, this one is a bit of a dud. After showcasing more poignant instrumentation (the drums, guitars and bass are all markedly improved), the band repeatedly falls back to the same overused synths and reliance on electronica. The debut single 'Someone, Anyone' is a mover and a shaker, but it feels like the same old song and dance. While earlier albums are well represented stylistically here (the darker moments are darker, the pop is poppier and the choruses are soaring) a lingering issue has once again presented itself.
This may be a comparison to other bands or simply to past works, but the band's emotional energy is lacking. For every improvement the band has made, Stephen Christian's delivery still feels restrained. While the effect works well at some points, it doesn't allow any one song to be overly memorable. The entire effect is, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment. For someone who's expected the moon and stars for this unit, I'm now beginning to think that as the current line-up stands, that may be asking too much.
If you can connect to Christian's voice and enjoy the potent lyrics regardless, this may be your album of the year. With Circa Survive, Converge, Ceremony, Propagandhi and others stepping up their game though, I've got more deserving candidates in mind.