Review Summary: The most disappointing 3.5 I ever gave to an album.
Hyping yourself for stuff is never a good thing. At best it will meet your expectations, but usually it leads to disappointment. After listening to the two songs released before the album (''Self-Starter'' and ''Someone, Anyone''),
I felt like VITAL could be the album to equal or even surpass CITIES in terms of quality. And when I saw that everyone was saying it was the case, I got very excited that it could be true. Unfortunately, VITAL doesn't meet those expectations.
But first, let's talk about the good stuff.Anberlin still know how to make songs that are both catchy and developed. The songs are as good if you don't pay attention or if you do. For example, ''Desires'' starts out heavy, then goes into a soft verse before returning to the heaviness in the chorus. Nothing special about that you say? Not really, but the transitions are so smooth that you may be caught into singing along and forget about how groovy the rhythm section is. Another example would be ''Intentions'', where the electronic elements are seamlessly integrated and the unexpected rocking bridge surprising but fits well.
The other positive aspect of the album is (obviously) the singer Stephen Christian. His voice sounds great as it always did and his delivery is at its most expressive. His versatility as a singer is shown by his aggressive tone in ''Little Tyrants'' or his delicate singing in ''Type Three''. The lyrics have also improved from their last album, where they where childish and cheesy. They go well with the music and are meaningful most of the time. The only downside on the vocal side is the amount of effects used sometimes (''Modern Age'').
The real problem with this album is that nothing really stands out. Most of the songs are well put-together and catchy, but never really more than that. Every song has an extremely basic structure and surprises are few and far between. While the album is consistent, there isn't any song that feels like they really pushed themselves to make the best album they could. The closer ''God, Drugs and Sex'' attempts to break the mold, but nothing interesting happens in its 6-minutes running time.
The album, while consistent in quality, isn't consistent in terms of sound. Some songs are heavy, some are soft, some put an emphasis on electronics. However, it never really glues together. Sometimes, the instruments feel important (''Little Tyrants''); sometimes, the guitars and even the drums are nowhere to be seen. It feels like Stephen Christian just went into with studio musicians and told them what he wanted. Therefore, the album doesn't have a flow and feels like a collection of singles. Yes, it's consistent, but it never goes anywhere.
This review may seem harsh, but it's only because I know that Anberlin are capable of so much more. Where is the energy from ''A Day Late'' and ''Breaking'', the sadness behind the heaviness of ''Paperthin Hymn'', the emotion of ''Inevitable'' and ''We Owe This To Ourselves'', the build-up of ''Dismantle. Repair'', the epic feeling of ''Fin'' and ''Miserabile Visu''? Not here. However, I'm always singing ''Someone, someone, tell me what we're fighting for. Anyone, anyone, anyone can start a war. No one can walk away, no one can walk away, truly alive.'', and that isn't nothing.
Lots of spelling and grammar mistakes early on, and your descriptions are lackluster. Telling me the instruments don't feel important or that it's not consistent in terms of sound kind of leaves a lot to be desired. I could get behind a 3.5 review for this, but the arguments would have to actually be well thought out.
That's fine, and maybe we're just different, but I wouldn't write a review for the album if I just had a feeling about it that I couldn't put into words. It also wouldn't hurt to submit it to the proofreading thread before you post, it will help clean up some of the small but noticeable grammar mistakes that derail this review early on.
I really disagree with your reasoning behind the rating. If you meant nothing stands out, in the sense that Pray Tell or (*fin) or ReadyFuels shine as on a different level of their respective albums (of course my opinion) I could say difference in opinion. But the surprises are few? What about Intentions? It's almost danceable! What about the vocals in the prechorus of Self-Starter? Were you expecting a single with a quickly-sung chorus? A song like Orpheum? Or GD&S's back and forth? I'm not sure what kind of shock value you were expecting, but I'd argue there's almost no sameyness.
I guess the internal consistency is a matter of opinion. I felt the album flowed really naturally. After about three listens to Vital, when I started listening to songs individually, I came to expect some songs (like Other Side after Little Tyrants), but if you want all the songs to be guitar-first then I get your complaints with songs like Other Side, Orpheum, Type Three, GD&S, etc.
Anyways, my disagreements aside, I think this review could probably use a revision or two, but is pretty good in explaining your opinion. I'll pos
Yeah been a while. Because of you I've been listening to Exotic Animal Petting Zoo all the time hehe.
Thanks for explaining why you disagree instead of hating.
When I said no surprises, it was more about the song structure. I still mentioned Intentions as an example of surprise. I'm not saying the album is samey, I'm saying it plays it too safe and that nothing stands out as incredible.
Personally I don't like the flow of the album. I'm not expecting every song to have solos but I feel like a lot of times it's not even the band playing.
Thanks for sharing your opinion and not being a douche about it though. I always appreciate music discussion.
Oh, I gotcha. Yeah I see where you're coming from in that aspect. Of course, I personally don't go to Anberlin for unique song structure (aside from the odd extended intro like Art of War or something but your point stands.) Same with the band playing or whatever. I don't think Type Three really is the band playing so to speak but it's still amazing.
And same, I like hearing differing opinions (that make sense) to my own
To be clear, there are no bad songs here. Other Side and Innocent are the worst to me but they're still okay.
I just think that here the way they build their songs sometimes feels lifeless on this album. Type Three is a great example of my problems with the album. It seems like it's going to build-up to something more, but no. Instead, here's the same chorus done the same way! Also, I always dislike when bands don't actually play their songs. That always bothered me a bit in a band like Red or Avenged Sevenfold's last couple albums. Type-Three is one of my favorites actually, but I think it could have been more.
I like hearing different opinions too so it's all good!