Review Summary: Anberlin bid us farewell with an eclectic and chaotic knockout blow, just like any good Anberlin album should
Any avid music listener should be able to recall a time where they heard a piece of music that made them feel like they had just witnessed the auditory version of the second coming of Christ. Such music can make you grin giddily, send chills down your spine, or even cry. For me and many others, hearing Cities for the first time was that auditory revelation. Not one song felt out of place, and "*fin" actually brought me to tears. When they dropped the ball with the substandard New Surrender, I was very disappointed. While I knew they could never match the godly Cities, I knew they could do better. Dark is the Way was a step in the right direction, and was much closer to Cities' than its predecessor. Then, two years ago, Anberlin released Vital. It reset the standard of high quality music produced Stephen and Co. and had not only matched Cities, It damn near surpassed it.
Now with Lowborn, Anberlin bring forth some of their strongest material to date. While it may not surpass the level set by Vital or Cities, Lowborn matches it. The short 10 song track list removes all space for any filler. Lowborn stands exceptionally well, not only on as a whole album, but on each track's own merits. Every song is unique and is a standout. The variety from song to song is extremely well done, with heavier numbers interspersed between the softer and the mid-tempo tracks. I had moments with every song where I was blown out of my socks (metaphorically of course, but I wish literally) and laid where I was, mouth agape, and unable to move due to the way I felt during the album's 40 minute runtime.
Energetic opener "We are Destroyer" starts things off with an appropriate bang. The metal-tinged "Dissenter" was a very pleasant surprise, offering forth Stephen's first screams since "Feel Good Drag" back in 2005 on NTFP. "Dissenter"s placement between the much softer mid tempo ballads "Birds of prey" and "Losing it all" increases not only its own impact, but the impact of the other two songs, due to their intelligent placement. Lowborn's climax peaks with instant classic "Velvet Covered Brick". This song hits like its brick over and over and doesn't let up for its full four minute runtime. The album slows down for a bit with "Atonement" and "Birds of Prey", before the aforementioned right hook to the jaw that is "Dissenter". The subdued nature of "Atonement", "Birds of prey", and concluding track "Harbinger" bring to mind the slow, emotionally charged pop of The XX. The songs emotional lyrics and passionate croons resonate through the spacey atmosphere and minimalistic electronic instrumentation. "Harbinger" brings the album to a simmering close, bidding us listeners good night with its last refrains of "We'll live forever, forever, forever"
Stephen's vocals and lyrics are on-point, and the band is as tight and unified as ever. Nathan's energetic and creative drumming is found all throughout the album's runtime, with some of the best parts found in the thundering chorus of "Velvet Covered Brick" the subdued "Armageddon", and soaring "Losing it all". Guitarists Christian and Joseph bring some extremely well thought out, emotional, and exquisite (yes, I just used that word) six string compositions that could easily be argued are the best of their career. For example, the acoustic guitar strums and electrifying solo found in "Losing it all" adds some spectacular depth to the song; and the heavy distorted electronic chugs in "We are Destroyer" and "Dissenter" brings some much needed heaviness to Anberlin's recent poppier sound. Bassist Deon fills out the spectrum keeping the album's sound iron heavy and acts like a kite string, preventing the band from soaring too close to the sun and crashing.
As the band's musical farewell comes to a close and the last refrains of "Harbinger" fade out into the blackness, one must eventually come to the realization that the musical journey of Anberlin is now over. One could hold on to denial, and hope that the end of Anberlin is just a hiatus, and they'll come back after a couple years to rock the world again (Like I will probably). However, said conclusion is inevitable, especially if they never return. But for now, let us cherish Lowborn, for it is a spectacular offering of the art that is Rock Music. Too bad the album artwork sucks.