Review Summary: creative expansion shakes hands with creative energy - and not a second too late
If you had one word to define Anberlin’s music pre-New Surrender
, ‘energy’ would be a damn good choice. Whether we’re talking about ‘energy’ in regards to literal, four-on-the-floor cuts like ‘Readyfuels’, or about the creative ‘energy’ that enables a song like ‘(*FIN)’ to even exist, Anberlin made it big by sounding young and inspired. Yet in a world after 2007‘s Cities
, Anberlin not only became a group of more refined, more mature songwriters, but a band progressively trapped in the thrum of growing pains. Broader ideas and wider genre-scapes marked new and exciting territory for the Florida quintet, but along with sparse epics like ‘Miserabile Visu’ and the tribal bombast of ‘Pray Tell’ came the sonic tiredness of a band caught in creative expansion. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Anberlin’s best material came out of New Surrender
, Dark is the Way, Light is a Place
, and Vital
. No, ‘Type Three’ is a song for the record-books, my friends -- but the inspired Anberlin had been quelled by the creative Anberlin. As Christian & Co. became greater and stronger, so did they sound tireder.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly pin their final outing Lowborn
as a literally
energetic album (it’s predecessor Vital
earns that accolade), but it is as inspired as Anberlin has sounded in years. It’s brooding and, at times, mellow, but underneath the experimentation, Anberlin’s reignited passion burns steady. Perhaps the finality of recording his “last album” put fire in Stephen Christian’s belly, because although Lowborn
sprawls in too many directions, Anberlin sound committedly interested in every road they travel on. The aggressive, nearly-industrial ‘Dissenter’ may be a bit of a misfire (particular on a production standpoint), but god-damn, I tell you what: it sure sounds like Stevie C. has wanted to roar like that for years. ‘Armageddon’ isn’t sure if it’s a late 90s rock track or a Muse-cover, but again, I say: don’t these boys sound like they’re having fun
See, not everything on Lowborn
is golden. It’s a bit rough around the edges, yeah, but it is steered by such a definite sense of purpose and, I’m saying it again, energy
, that all ten tracks are a joy to listen to. And like any Anberlin album with a few bastard-tracks (you know, ‘Art of War’ and its dopey cousin ‘Hello Alone’), the choice cuts on Lowborn
are some of the band’s best work. The cheeky synth of the melodically perfect ‘We Are Destroyer’ is complemented well by the song’s massive Rise Against-esque chorus. The electronics-laden ‘Hearing Voices’ pays beautiful tribute to Ellie Goulding’s sense of melody with one of Christian’s most accessible chorus hooks. ‘Stranger Ways’ is a wonderful example of dynamic restraint; dancing on the precipice of explosion, but never quite landing an unwarranted climax. There’s enough beauty on Lowborn
to keep you coming back, and enough chutzpah in Anberlin’s engine to make the misfires both charming and invigorating. There’s something special about hearing people do what they love, and Lowborn
captures the sound of a band inspired. It’s a fitting end, wouldn’t you say?
All the best, guys.