Review Summary: Further proof of the theory that Anberlin can do no wrong.
One of the things we have learned to depend on from Anberlin over the years is that they usually always have a strong opener and a glorious, epic, extended track to end each album. The only exceptions really are Blueprints for the Black Market
and Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
just doesn’t have one (although Readyfuels is a fantastic opener) and “Depraved,” to me, doesn’t really fit the criteria. Never Take Friendships Personal’s
title track is the weakest, paired with the strong “dance, dance Christa Päffgen” to counter balance it and Cities
has the excellent “Godspeed,” coupled with the popular and well executed “(*Fin)” on its side. New Surrender
has my favorite tag team though with “The Resistance” and the near flawless “Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum)” in its corner. Vital
puts up a fight as well with upbeat “Self Starter” and the somewhat simple, atmospheric ender “God, Drugs & Sex” to top it off. I don’t know when the guys came up with the idea or if it just kind of happened by accident, but I hope they keep them coming.
The band dives much further into the electronic sound than on any previous release and also writes some of the heavier songs we have heard (an odd sentence to write, but so it goes). While Vital feels like new territory for the band, it’s still Anberlin. From a band that’s been this consistently great for the last 10 years, what else could we ask for from them? Like I said, Vital has a lot more rockers all in one place than previous albums. Usually the band only has one or two aggressive tracks (the opener and then another thrown in around the halfway point) and then splits upon the catchier pop/rock (usually leaning a little more towards this side) and the softer, mellower tracks. However, Vital shows a much more melancholy side to the band than previous works. The album is pretty much void of the ridiculously catchy, bouncy and lighthearted sounds of songs like “Adelaide” and “Impossible.” It’s a fairly big departure from the band’s usual sound, but it seems to works in their favor for this release.
Songs like the opener “Self Starter” and the “Godspeed” reminiscer “Little Tyrants” start the album off with a kick. Both songs are pretty fast and furious affairs that have all the instruments going full blast except for the slightly subdued verses. “Little Tyrants” has some really nice guitar parts (the pre-chorus especially) throughout and also treats us to a guitar solo (which we haven’t had the pleasure of for a while). It also showcases Stephen Christian sporting a more aggressive tone than usual on the chorus. He was always good at hitting a yell or a scream at the tail end of a vocal line, but this is the first time I’ve really heard him trying to keep it going over an entire section. It works for the most part, but it could use a little fine tuning. The strong chorus of “Other Side,” with its slower pacing and thickly distorted guitars, followed by lead single “Someone Anyone,” continues the trend of the harder hitting rock songs. Last, we have “Desires,” which has one of the heaviest, most aggressive intro/chorus riffs I’ve heard Anberlin produce in recent memory. I also found it impressive that the synthesizers were used in some of these tracks and didn’t detract from the heavier, hard rock sound found on them. It actually added to the experience. I had heard they were experimenting with synthesizers more on this record, but I was mostly expecting it to be found on the pop/rock songs.
The synths/electronics make their appearance on most of the tracks, which is another pretty big change for the band since the most they were used before were just a couple tracks from Cities
(“There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss” and “Reclusion”) and “Disappear” from New Surrender
. It spices up the band’s sound and doesn’t feel like a gimmick, especially since they have experimented with it in the past. “Modern Age” is probably the best of the more pop/rock, synth-heavy songs, followed closely by the slower paced “Orpheum.” “Modern Age” has a somewhat simple, yet infectious intro to it, which Christian then solidifies with his excellent vocals when the intro is used again for the chorus. “Intentions” and “Other Side” straddles the line of the aggressive, mellow and synth-pop/rock sounds quite well, using synth heavy intros and light verses, while “Other Side” utilizes a heavy sounding chorus and “Intentions” takes charge with a catchier chorus and an aggressive bridge that almost comes out of nowhere. “Type Three” and “Innocent” are my least favorite, but are still solid, synth-dominated mellow tracks, while “Innocent” (along with the verses on "Desires") shows a lighter side to the album. And as always, Stephen Christian gives another stellar vocal performance throughout each of the tracks. He just might want to work on his more aggressive tone if that’s something he wants to continue doing for future releases.
Anberlin continues their trend of making high quality albums and further experimenting with their sound. It just further adds to my, and probably many others, theory that the band is capable of no wrong. As of now, I feel that this is their strongest offering to date and like all their other albums, it will remain in my regular rotation long after its release date.