Review Summary: I am the wolf, I am the hunger...
I’ll admit when the first singles from Atreyu’s 2021 record were released I was skeptical. Not only did I not enjoy the straight “hook, line and sinker” themes found on their last effort, In Our Wake
, but I found it odd that a band that had released a tour-de-force like Long Live
only a couple years before that, only to crumple in the way of detracting sellout clichés. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not like Atreyu hasn't been throwing the same schtick at adoring fans for the better part of two decades… nor is it wise to expect they’ll just change up a working formula just because a few critics became jaded and grumpy, unrealistic to the core. Here’s the thing: I was nostalgic, wrapped up in the deeper cuts of Atreyu’s back catalogue that defined my teenage years and the question hung unanswered in the air. If it was the right time for me then, why wasn’t it the right time for me now? Naturally, I had accepted that I wouldn’t hear bangers like “Bleeding Mascara”, “Blow” (not-so guilty pleasure) or “Becoming The Bull” again while I gracefully (lol) approach my thirties, but Long Live
did the seemingly impossible. It wasn’t a straight classic, but I can’t help but hear “Brass Balls” or “Do You Know Who You Are?” without unconsciously planting a shit-eating grin on my face as I un-tunefully yelled the lyrics from the safety of my car.
It led me to the sad conclusion that Atreyu are doing what a lot of bands from my formative metal years have given up on: making music..and you know what? Good for them.
Looking forward, Baptize
both scared the shit out of me and
gave me hope. Maybe it was just a slump, just maybe they’ll take this formula and set it back on the rails—hopefully facing the right way or maybe, just maybe I’ll take my unrealistic expectations and shove them thoroughly up my back passage (or out the back of my head). For Baptize
is as much a trip through modern day Atreyu cliché as it highlights the best of the group’s more...aged cuts. “The Strange Powers of Prophecy” might be an initial anti-climax on a portrait of expectation, but Atreyu wasn't ever renowned for combining hooks into emotion building introductions. Instead it’s the album’s first “real track” points towards Atreyu’s larger stylistic direction: bombast, hook and chorus. In fact, as inoffensive as the album’s titular track is in terms of bridging both old and new Atreyu together (which, let’s face it, is the same damn thing), “Baptize” ticks all the boxes for a die-hard Atreyu fan. There’s the big arena style riff, the hook (shoved down the gullet) and those all important sing along verses. In having Atreyu’s longtime vocalist, Alex Varkatzas step away from duties last year, it wasn’t much of a dynamic change to see Brandon Saller step out from behind the kit, swapping his sticks for a microphone—but the new formula works
Stylistically, it’s business as usual for string-sters Dan Jacobbs and Travis Miguel. The pair interweave a multitude of digestible riffs amongst Saller’s arena style lyrics. The emotive tones carry well, coupled with solid riffs and the occasional flamboyant guitar solos that peter into the album’s songs and fade into ringing chords before they outstay their welcome. Admittedly there’s new crowd favourites like “Weed” which recalls the title of the opener and “Catastrophe” which unearths all sorts of wholesome “we can do anything together-isms” which will likely become additions to the new Atreyu live setlist, complete with mosh inducing breakdowns and well placed “***s”. Atreyu pilots the same arena direction they’ve been moving towards since Congregation Of The Damned
There are a few questionable moments to be had. “Fucked Up” takes a stab at blending ferocity and edgy curse words to little effect, “Sabotage Me” takes a back seat from the angular guitar attack and resorts to simple chugs and lazy sound contrasts. By the numbers “Untouchable” dances between the lines of pop music and something Sum 41 wishes they could write. Travis Barkers’ inclusion on the closer, “Warrior” could be considered downright laughable if not for the fact that this track actually contains some solid vocal hooks. With this summary in mind it’s pretty clear that (with the exception of “Stay”) Baptize
is (much) stronger in its first half.
does in spades however, is pull on the heartstrings of fans that can’t help but enjoy those bigger past hits. The inclusion of other artists bookending a few of the latter tracks helps break up some
of the natural stylistic arena fed issues. Just imagine just how flat “Untouchable” would be without Jacoby Shaddix’s touches? Even the Matt Heafy vocal effort on “Oblivion” deserves some merit, but most of the effect comes too late into an album that could have benefited from moving these features up in the list, instead of being the footnote fanservice they’ve unfortunately become. That aside the natural aggressiveness of “Underrated”, “Save Us” brings back them feels
from The Curse
, while throwing undisclosed amounts of edginess found in younger cuts a al Long Live
. This more angular approach (“Save Us”, “Underrated”) is appropriate considering the slighter gravitational pull away from the band’s more emo-tinged, metalcore roots—that’s not to say they’ve gone, it’s just that longtime listeners are beginning to know better than to pearl clutch at the hope that Atreyu will forever be blasting “Ex’s and Oh’s”, “Bleeding Mascara” or “Right Side Of The Bed” until the universe collapses on itself.