Sound — 9
Anberlin have been slowly coming to the boil for quite some time now. Starting with the epic masterpiece that was 'Cities', and the power-pop sound of the summer 'New Surrender', they now return with their latest and 5th studio album. The band have always managed to somehow reinvent their sound from album to album, yet never lose their defining sound, and this is no exception. Tracks such as 'Pray Tell' and 'Art Of War' display a new side to the band, un-chartered territory with S.American inspired drumming beats and a subtle but existent homage to the bands influences of days gone by (The Cure). For the first time, vocalist Stephen Christian leads every song in the mix of things; his voice powering through like we've never heard before with epic results. With Grammy award winning producer Brendan O'Brien on board, the production and mastering precision on this album is second to none, yet unlike their previous album, it never feels over produced. To get the full picture of just have immense the sound on this album is, you have to whack on a pair of decent headphones, and suddenly it takes you onto another level. Whilst a fresh and different approach to things, old fans of the band can rest assured that this is unquestionably an Anberlin album, with songs such as 'To The Wolves' and 'You Belong Here' harking back to the bands early material.
Lyrics — 5
Lyrics have always been a staple part of Anberlin. Unfortunately, this album lacks lyrical depth, and whilst not a disaster, collectively these are probably the worst lyrics Stephen Christian has penned. They are repetitive, and lack any kind of honesty. On previous albums the level of quality in the lyrics has been outstanding, giving us such an emotional journey. There is no such journey on this album, more like a parking garage; lots of levels, but all with the same view. The only saving grace is that what lyrics there are, Christian sings them to absolute perfection.
Overall Impression — 7
Whilst in days gone by, the band has focused on experimenting with guitar sounds and other instruments, this time around it was the vocals that got the majority of the work. Whilst Stephen Christian remains one of the strongest singers in the genre, you certainly feel in some areas that the guitars in particular fall short in terms of excitement and variation due to this focus on vocal tone and texture. Whilst not quite on a par with 'Cities', this album does display a more solid consistency, with the album flowing nicely from start to finish. It's a mature record, and one that is set to stand the test of time. This album sees the band showing the dark side they displayed on 'Cities', and seemingly lost on 'New Surrender'. Stand out songs are 'Pray Tell', 'Art Of War', and 'Take Me (As You Found Me'. However, one of the best songs on the album comes strangely in the form of a b-side, 'All We Have', which is classic Anberlin in every single way. This is possibly the only song to come out of the record that can stand up to the bands heavyweight songs such as 'Dismantle Repair' and 'Paperthin Hymn' in terms of the stronger focus on guitars rather than vocals. In comparison, 'All We Have' is to this album, as 'The Haunting' was to 'Cities. It will have fans questioning why it didn't make the final cut, when it is one of the strongest candidates to be a hit single. Musically, this album is the most consistent and mature we have ever seen, but it comes with a massive amount of frustration. On Cities, the lyrics were outstanding but the album lacked consistency. On New Surrender the band kind of lost it's way completely, but the lyrics held it together. This album helps the band find it's feet again musically, but because of the lack of lyrical quality the whole thing is held back from reaching it's full potential.