Sound — 6
Alternative rock band Anberlin first formed back in 2002, whose roots reach back to an original project by the name SaGoh, which produced two studio albums before the band members decided to change their sound entirely and appropriately taking on a different name. Within a year of reforming as Anberlin, the group signed with Tooth & Nail Records and released their debut studio album "Blueprints for the Black Market." The album became a moderate success for Anberlin, quickly selling over 60,000 units. Although these numbers admittedly pale in comparison to their later efforts, for a debut album it showed serious promise for this alternative rock fresh out of Winter Haven, Florida. Anberlin issued their second studio album three years later, titled "Never Take Friendship Personal," which ended up as a much grander success for the group, selling over 150,000 copies and later being named one of Amazon's Top 100 Editorial Picks of 2005. Anberlin's mainstream popularity only continued to increase as time moved on: their next album "Cities" was the group's first to land within the Top 20 charts, and this success caught the attention of the major record label Universal Republic, who would go on to sign Anberlin and conclude their run with Tooth & Nail Records. Bolstered by a major label, Anberlin's fourth studio album installment surfaced in 2008. "New Surrender" peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, and spawned a number one alternative rock single, "Feel Good Drag." Since then the band has gone on to release two records, the latest being the acclaimed "Vital" which was released last year. This album in particular showed the members of Anberlin embracing a new batch of musical influences, wanting to sound "youthful, energetic," and as in the majority of cases of mainstream acts this move ended up being a successful one. A year following the release of this successful album, and Anberlin are following it up with "Devotion." This release is considered to be a new studio album from the alternative rock group, however the majority of the first disc included in this two disc set is heavily comprised of the same songs which were included on "Vital," only with some slight differences production wise. After every four songs which follow in order of "Vital"'s chronological track listing, there is the addition of a studio outtake which originally didn't make the cut, such as the bass-heavy "City Electric." There's a good reason songs such as these didn't make an original appearance: the vocals are smothered by a conclave of electronic backbeats and bass playing, to a point where they are barely recognizable. Disc two is essentially a live album and one of the few positive sides to this new release, which includes selections from throughout Anberlin's career. Longtime fans should be able to enjoy the group's tight renditions of such tracks as "Naive Orleans" and "Dismantle.Repair."
Lyrics — 7
Anberlin lead vocalist Stephen Christian does a noteworthy job on the second disc of "Devotion." He stays in tune with the rest of the group and delivers an emotion-fueled performance from start to finish. When it comes to the first disc of this release, his vocal performance is exactly the same as on the original renditions: which is appropriate, considering they are the same studio recordings, only with several almost unnoticeable changes in the mixing.
Overall Impression — 6
"Devotion"'s remixes bear little to no differences to the original songs, and aren't worthwhile listens. Had Anberlin re-recorded these songs, performed them unplugged, done anything to change things up and been creative, I feel it would have provided more gravity to this album. The live disc itself is a worthwhile release, however there wasn't any reason to include the same songs which were just issued on Anberlin's previous studio album. Had the band only released "Devotion" as a live album and added the unreleased tracks at the beginning or end of the release, as so many other groups have previously done, I feel it would have benefited this outing tremendously.