Review Summary: Vital may grow to be Anberlin’s new zenith as it combines what made Cities so great with “Dark’s” maturity.
For various reasons, things got shaken for Anberlin's fans since they entered major label Universal Republic, and I wonder to what direction it has gotten these guys. I mean, it’s not like their tunes are being broadcast massively and I can’t imagine a casual conversation where the name Anberlin pops in and everyone would be like “Oh yeah, that band…”. So their music has certainly changed in the past two releases and still, it hasn't given them the fame they deserve.
New Surrender didn't make an impression and had very bad production while Dark… was very good in its own right and showed a more mature Anberlin. Still, these two albums are often seen as a separate entity when referring to their discography which brings a foreseeable question to mind: Will they ever surpass Cities"
Well, it has been quite a pleasure seeing them evolving as an established alternative rock act and it is such a delight to say for the first time since Cities that this is not an “Anberlin record that disappoints”.
With the same oblige of all their records Self-Starter attacks with a Godspeed vibe but leaves a forceful impression like The Resistance did. Being the first song that leaked I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the vocally layered chorus that was ever present in "…Friendship…". Also, this song showcases synth lines that, while sounding refreshing and youthful, it is not particularly new to the band (Reclusion, There Is No Mathematics…).
This approach is further explored in Vital though, songs like Someone Anyone, rightly the first single, display how successfully it sounds with their amalgam of hard rock riffs and their old school fashion.
To these ears, Anberlin have always struck me as an 80’s band out of their era which is why when they make a cover of Depeche Mode or When in Rome it sounds so ridiculously apt. Both Intentions and Innocent are very aware of this as the vintage keyboards lead through. The former sounds already like a single with one of the catchiest chorus of the album, and the middle section leaves alone power chords with some effects to come full circle. Innocent on the other hand is a ballad á la Empire Of the Sun that features a heavy electronic element.
Stephen Christian shows some surprisingly raspy vocals on Little Tyrants and while this has more of a punk approach, it’s a hard hitting track that offers fast drumming and a startling guitar solo in the bridge. Desires unquestionably own the heaviest intro on the album switching to a very slow verse with a clear rhythmic bass line, and the chorus is just as fitting as brilliant.
With beautiful piano passages, Orpheum is a song with a lot going on yet never feels over-saturated, from the electronic bridge to the constant tempo changes (reminiscent of Pray Tell) the songs marks a 3:51 min epic track that never loses its touch. The actual ending song is not much as impressive on its own, it's more of an assurance of how great is what you just heard.
The band never depends on the instruments, their appeal is the songwriting and in view of that, Vital may grow to be Anberlin’s new zenith as it combines what made Cities so great with “Dark’s” maturity, which even if it will not entertain a great amount of listeners it will definitely satisfy those who write them off after their first major release.