Review Summary: A 71-minute-long sprint.
Anberlin have never before gone straight for the jugular like they have now.
After leaving behind their pop-punk goodness, the band embarked on a rediscovery of themselves in atmospheric music. And while no deconstruction or unorthodox instrumentation came into the picture, the band began to point their sound to greater prospects: condemnation, salvation, altruism, righteousness, benevolence. Cities
, New Surrender
and Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
, diverse records when compared, all had one thing in common - they contained music that played out like a novel, that engaged the audience and encouraged them to make it their own, that simply would not be confined to the tracks themselves.
This is not so with Devotion
. It's first incarnation, Vital
, is a violent, mechanical record. It does not burst at the seams with innovation and life, it's nuclear fission - calculated, immaculately crafted and unimaginably powerful. Opener Self-Starter
and the mid-album Desire
are both testaments of great discipline, with alt-metal riffs simply tearing through the airwaves like bloodhounds released from a tight leash, all somehow contained in one compact track. Synths sound out like voices in an abandoned cathedral in Other Side
, boring their way through to create space for Christian's vocals that howl over a hurricane of riffs and bass, or surge like a torrent of rushing water in Someone Anyone
, carrying with it a collateral of vocals that chime through the distortion. Even the melodramatic Modern Age
and closer-cum-palette-cleanser God, Drugs and Sex
, deliver far more than their stereotypes would promise. Although this renders the album's weaker tracks, such as the sterile and underwhelming Innocent
, simply forgettable, it is plain that there is simply no time for contextualization or elaboration. Much of Vital
exists for the moment and nothing more, but burns brightly while it does.
In areas where Vital
alone seemed insufficient, however, Devotion
delivers the whole picture. Vital
seemed like an abrupt swerve into uncharted territory for the band, but the second tier that was brought in links new and old by heralding a melancholy that is only all too familiar. It is these tracks that trickle bare emotion into the mix - IJSW
plays this role perfectly with its frighteningly vulnerable chorus:
How is this for true Devotion: Give, I'll give you all,
I'll give you all
How is this for true Romance: I feel I pulled you down,
I pulled you down
How is this for Honestly: I need to hear,
I need to hear it now
Who do you need me to be? I'll be someone,
I'll be someone for you
The influence of Cities'
producer Mr. Aaron Sprinkle is now also finally evident. Although not advisable, when Devotion's 7 new tracks are heard separately, every track aside from exuberant crowd-pleaser City Electric
sounds noticeably like a darker, more guttural version of Never Take Friendship Personal
- for attentive fans, the last of the 7, Safe Here
, is a curt nod to the era both lyrically and stylistically. When taken as a whole, as well it should, Devotion
is two sides of the same coin, and the fusion of electronics with raw instrumentation is consistently ingenuous. Intentions
has driven guitars inexplicably fitting synths like a glove, while Said Too Much
occupies a cold cavernous area where intentionally soulless unforgiving instrumentation works alongside a melodious pop-punk melody given new life in a primal tongue. A potency now exists in their sound that was almost inconceivable before.Â*
Due credit must be given to Stephen Christian, their singular frontman. As a vocalist, the man is transparent and practically without pretense, and the tone he possesses - contemplative and fragile when subdued, wonderfully pure in the higher register but capable of great force when called upon - is unique perhaps only to him. In Devotion
his vocals take on whole new forms - laced with effects, magnified into a choral resonance or stripped barer than ever before. His is an earnest and unflattering sort of genius, and perhaps the sole reason why every sound Anberlin's ever attempted has been original.
is touch and go for a 71-minute-long sprint. That is not to say, however that it's tracks are without their points - a great deal of them dabble in concepts of broken love, loss, depravity, and idealism. But these, by virtue of their presentation, are by no means dialogues; they deal with raw thought and emotion itself (the â€śvitalsâ€ť of human essence, if you will) - and nothing more. It's almost as if the band has found a way to communicate sentiment directly, and only by really letting their finished products simply exist as they do here does the band manage their incredible pace without burning out. Devotion
is a journey through a new dimension, and the Anberlin that has embarked on it have wholly opened themselves up to dark reinvention while keeping the hallmarks of their past glory â€“ the result of which is terrifyingly brilliant.