Review Summary: Almost at the finish line.Chapter VI: Hold On Till the End
With the release of 2010’s Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
, Anberlin had proved that they were not as infallible as we thought they were, and that disappointment was an all too possible option. Its lack of energy and emotion, coupled with its relatively short running time was a recipe for mediocrity, with only a few highlights to boast. Perhaps this was the beginning of Anberlin’s downfall, ushering in a new era that was defined by lazy songwriting, banal hooks and juvenile lyrics. Every band goes through their rough patch – maybe this was the end of their line.
It’d be pretty fucking outrageous if it actually was.
, Anberlin not only proved that the failure that was Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
was just a fluke, but also further shown evidence that they still weren’t done pushing the boundaries of their music six albums in. Musical progression has always been something that the band has showcased – they’ve strayed so far from their original pop-punk roots that it’s pretty astounding. The young, immature teenagers relishing in their youthful energy nearly a decade ago have grown, and it’s all for the better. Vital
sees Anberlin dabble into a more electronic sound significantly more than they did on past releases. They’ve always used synths to their advantage (“There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss” and “Haight St.”, anyone?), so the sudden implementation of it into the album’s core sound isn’t all too surprising. It’s tracks like “Type Three” and lead single “Someone Anyone” that benefit the most from Anberlin’s new sonic exploration, the former opening with absolutely beautiful distortion on Stephen Christian’s ethereal vocals.
is a very atmospheric record, more so than Cities
in some regards. “Intentions” uses its bouncy synth riff to create its upbeat, semi-aggressive mood while album highlight “Modern Age” has a very grandeur, epic feel to it despite its four-minute runtime. Although it starts off with guitarist Joseph Milligan’s crushing riffs over a heavy beat, the song carries a downtempo mood throughout its entirety, heavily benefitted by all the warbling synthesizers playing at the just the right volume and tempo in the background. As Christian cries “Don’t we all want to belong?” over Milligan’s haunting background vocals, the ethereal mood that resonates throughout the whole song comes to such a gorgeous climax, truly offering some of the best music Anberlin has ever produced.
Even though Vital
is an album that is greatly assisted by its use of synthesizers and haunting atmospheres, there are still remnants of their classic sound in the record’s wings. Opener “Self-Starter” kicks off the record in an aggressive fashion, continuing the band’s trend of starting out rough. In fact, it may be one of the band’s heaviest tracks to date. Christian’s hostile vocal performance is the track’s highlight, although the frenetic instrumentation is also worth noting. He actually lets off a nice scream at the bridge’s end (“Push me until you see blood!”). Similarly, “Little Tyrants” exudes energy with its simple yet infectious hook that bears some similarities to “Godspeed”.
shines brightest with its ballads. “Innocent” utilizes its minimalistic atmosphere to create a truly touching love song, boosted by its use of synths, while “Type Three” and “Other Side” are just dripping with emotion. While several of Anberlin’s ballads in the past fell short due to a lack of energy or weak song structures, all of them manage to get everything right here. On the former, the aforementioned vocal distortion is a nice change of pace and brings something new to Christian’s already astounding singing. When the pianos kick in towards the end, the song reaches a whole new level of emotion that is transcended only once in a while.
is an album that sees Anberlin dipping their feet into new electronic territory, they haven’t forgotten what made them such a great band in the first place. Rebounding after the weak Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
, the Floridian quintet blended tearjerking ballads with aggressive, riff-driven rockers to create a perfect amalgamation of the best of both worlds. Even though the heavy use of synthesizers could have gone woefully wrong, Anberlin implemented them in the right places and with the right effects. From the epic and touching “Modern Age” to the headbanging “Self-Starter”, Vital
is the sound of a band with renewed passion and energy, ready to rock the world one last time. No matter how Lowborn
is received, the band’s penultimate album will go down in history as one of their best works, with musical progression to boast. Sing it…
”Don't we all want to belong?
Don't we all write our own song?
Let our silence break tonight!”