Review Summary: Atreyu return to form after 'Lead Sails Paper Anchor' and produce an album that may very well peak 'A Death Grip On Yesterday'.
Atreyu are not only known for the music they have created over their fifteen year career, but the fact that not only is their clean vocalist the drummer, but also because of Alex Varkatzas; their unclean vocalist. Many people regard him as one of the most annoying screamers in the business today, describing his voice as a ‘cat trying to escape his body, but dying in his stomach bile’. Many a listener has been put off by this, and the fact that Atreyu’s last effort ‘Lead Sails Paper Anchor’ was a passable effort that reduced Alex to just clean vocals and very minor screaming appearances, and ended with a mainstream mess of a record, left many people returning to their older sound. After deciding to leave Victory, and releasing a very shady ‘Best Of’ album to finish up their contract, they burst out with ‘Congregation Of The Damned’, a return to form that will please many fans and allow others to rethink their stance on the band.
Album opener ‘Stop! Before It’s Too Late And We’ve Destroyed It All’ showcases that Atreyu have really been left to their own devices, and been allowed to run riot with the ideas they have thought up. Gone are the uninspiring sounds we heard on ‘Lead Sails…’ and in are soaring riffs, well executed drums, an audible bass line, and the well-produced vocals by both drummer Brandon and Alex. ‘Bleeding Is A Luxury’ adds a nice instrumental element to the record, and hides the impending breakdown. Although not very common in this album, or in Atreyu for that matter, breakdowns aren’t not too obvious, and not too boring for that matter.
Clean vocals by Alex, although a much hated inclusion in ‘Lead Sails…’, have made an appearance on Congregation, although they’re much improved here. They are also less common than the previous album, much to the listener’s relief. Alex has also improved his vocal ability, not just in his clean vocals, but also his unclean vocal ability. Although a much hated part of his repertoire, he’s tried to improve them here, and although for the most part it goes unnoticed, he has downgraded his much-hated moan to a recognisable scream. Brandon, whilst not the greatest singer, tries his best to create soaring and memorable choruses, which they are, but sadly Brandon has very little range in his voice, making it unable to be done to an excellent degree.
As mentioned previously, the guitars are as great as ever. Although Dan and Travis have never been the greatest and most recognisable guitarists out their, they try, and for the most part, succeed. Songs such as ‘Ravenous’ have them let loose, shredding through anything in their path with the memorable riffs and solos, brought back from their ‘The Curse’ days.
As with most bands of this genre of music, the album’s most memorable songs take up the first part of the record, whilst slower or less recognisable songs are left to wander in the back half of the album. As mentioned before, ‘Ravenous’ is a great song, and is an exception to this, but song like ‘Wait For You’ are less welcomed, and feel like they should have been left out and replaced by another heavy and much faster song.
Many people may have written them off after the release of ‘Lead Sails…’, but the switch from Victory to Hollywood Records seems to have done the trick, allowing Atreyu to revisit their previous and more popular releases, and take elements from those and blend them into their latest release. Although those who have hated the unclean vocals of Alex may continue to stray away from the band, those who were previous fans and disliked ‘Lead Sails..’ can breathe a sigh of relief, and enjoy a record that keeps them in the game.
• A return to their old sound
• Guitars have a chance to shine, and they don’t waste it
• The heavier approach to the album helps it throughout
• Alex and Brandon have picked up their game
• Alex hasn’t changed his voice too much, and Brandon doesn’t strain his vocal chords enough
• The latter half of the album starts to drop off, with ***-kicker ‘Ravenous’ being the only real notable