The Most Vital an Album You'll Hear This Year | Posted October 22, 2012 Staff Reviewer
Have you ever listened to an album and as it faded out, it dawns on you that you have just encountered a musical experience that is truly mind-blowing? No? Listen to the latest release by alternative rockers Anberlin; that'll change.
Anberlin has spent the past eight years growing their fan base in both the Christian and mainstream circles. In 2007, they released what many considered to be their best record ever with the phenomenal Cities. Everything they've done since on their new mainstream label has, for better or worse, stood in the shadow of that dynamite release. Now, with the release of Vital, the record the band says is "for the fans," the band might finally have a release that everyone agrees can go toe to toe with anything they've done before.
Opening with the usual rocker, "Self-Starter" kicks in with relentless guitars and an emotional chorus that sets the pace for what is ultimately a fierce and memorable album. The energy here is so undeniable and one immediately realizes that Anberlin wasn't kidding this time when they promised the most aggressive record of their career. That promises continues with the next track, "Little Tyrants." Melodically, this is probably the least defined on the record, but it's also a fierce rocker that hearkens back to the band's older days, only through the lens of their immense musical growth over the years.
Of course, this album is anything but a trip down memory lane. As "Otherside" starts, listeners familiar with the band's sound might do a double-take at the haunting electronic opener and the soft lyrics that follow, which then explodes into a powerful and spine-tingling chorus: "Love me / Love me / Why don't you know me / know me." This is truly a chilling track and a bold new step for the band.
Lead single "Someone Anyone" is next and this probably sounds the most like the Anberlin we know and love, but with a trace of synth and with the rock cranked up a few notches. It's a worthy choice for radio. You'll be singing, "No one can walk away," all day long. You know you will. You'll be caught singing it at school or work and then you'll have to turn those people onto the CD to explain yourself. It's inevitable, people.
"Intentions" brings back the electronics and explodes into a fierce rock track before the band quiets things down for the free-spirited "Innocent." The ballad might feel out of place amidst all the chaos in the hands of a lesser band, but Anberlin handles the transition with grace.
Ready to slow things down after the happy feeling the last track left in you? Too bad. Anberlin isn't. "Desires" bangs through your speakers with the force of a stampede. This is one of the most intense songs the band's ever done. The chorus almost screams, "A Liar! A Liar! That's what you've made of me / A Wire! A Wire! / That's What We're Walking On." Hard hitting doesn't even begin to describe this one.
OK, now we can take a breather. "Type Three" is here to chill you out with its mesmerizing sound. Another of the haunting tracks, this song again finds the band tapping into their spiritual side, with some thought-provoking lyrics, including the highlight, "I looked to heaven to save me / and you called me naïve / Rather be a hopeless lover / than cursed with disbelief."
And it gets better. "Orpheum" opens up with a piano and then proceeds to hit us with its nonstop awesomeness. This track features some guest vocals from some lucky contest winners during the bridge. Their presence isn't really obvious, but it completes the atmosphere of the song.
OK, album highlight time. Yep, 9 tracks of awesomeness and the best is yet to come. From the opening sounds of "Modern Age," you know that you're in for something good and once the guitars kick in and knock you off your feet, I think you'll agree. The chorus is one of the album's strongest: "Don't we all want to belong / don't we all write our own song / Let our silence break tonight." It's chilling, it's rocking, and it's downright amazing.
After all of these golden tracks that can only be described as epic, one may wonder what Anberlin has in store for their signature "epic closer." Well, this time they've abandoned their slow-building dynamic rock number in favor of a more haunting, laid-back approach in "God, Drugs, and Sex."
Don't expect the guitars to attack you in this one, three minutes into the song. This one manages to be awesome without ever getting too amped up. While this could be seen as a disappointment to some, the song itself is worthy and still closes out with a recognizable "epic" feel as the group chants "Let go / Let go of me / I'm not here / Let go / Let go of me now / I'm already gone." Ah, beautiful… and a fitting end to an epic album.
And if you have just the regular version and now only silence comes out of your speakers, you've still more than got your money's worth. But if you're one of those who tracks down all the b-sides that bands (and in particular, Anberlin) usually release, you get even more amazing music. These pesky reject tracks that we can't figure out why they aren't on the album? There are four of them this time. Yep, count 'em: four!
From Best Buy, there's "Said Too Much" and "No Love To Speak." A rock track and a piano ballad respectively, these are some good tracks, although it's easy to see why they didn't make the cut. Next to everything else, they just aren't quite on the same level. (But they're still awesome in their own right.)
OK, now to the Australian exclusive slash free download for Americans, "Safe Here." From the opening synth notes, you know for sure that this is probably going to be among the best things you've ever heard. You wouldn't be far off. The verses have a chilling feel to them and hit hard. The chorus is a bit safer and more familiar but it works so well. Why wasn't this on the album, again? Yes, you'll be asking this.
And of course, there's the iTunes track, "Unstable." The album bares a similar feel to the previous, with a haunting opener, although this one keeps it's rock down and focus on the slow, chilly chorus. Ah yes, musical goodness.
Stephen Christian's vocals are the best thing about this release. They range from brutally fierce to majestically peaceful to bone-chillingly haunting to emotional and earnest. Seriously, I think this guy could probably sing anything and make it sound good. Luckily, with Anberlin, he's not pulling all the weight. From the guitars to the pounding drum work, Vital hits all the right notes at just the right times and you're left with the closest thing to a flawless record you'll find this year. Vital is the definition of a band in their element.
Get this record! What else is there to say? Go out and buy it, and then go and get your friends to go out and buy it. This is music, people--or at least what music is supposed to sound like, what music is supposed to do. It's got power, emotion, honesty, and the band's usual lyrical genius that will get your head thinking for hours on end. Is it better than Cities? Eh, who cares? Why compare two masterpieces to each other when you can be glad that a band actually was able to release two of them? Just sit back and enjoy. The album of the year has arrived!