Sound — 9
Well, let's face it: Atreyu's last album Lead Sails Paper Anchor pissed off a LOT of fans. LSPA's straight-foward hard rock sound made a lot of people jump off the Atreyu bandwagon. However, I liked it quite a bit, especially since I could finally understand the damn lyrics. BUT, I did wish for a little more METAL in LSPA. The version of that CD I got had three bonus songs: a new song called The Squeeze, which is the best song on the album (it's what Atreyu should sound like), and two covers: Faith No More's classic Epic (which Atreyu butchers, I'm sorry but it's a steaming pile of dogshit on an otherwise pretty damn good rock album), and the Descendant's Clean Sheets. I place most of the blame on LSPA not being as good as it could be on John Feldmann, the producer. If you haven't heard of him, he's essentially the preminent pop-punk/post-hardcore producer around. As Atreyu vocalist Alex Varkatzas has put it, "we let John put his hands a little too deep into LSPA." But enough about that album. I'm here to review the follow-up, Congregation of the Damned. I did not even know Atreyu was recording this until I read an interview in Guitar World with Dan & Travis (the guitarists) where they were talking about the sound. When they said it was a combination of all their previous records, I nearly jumped with joy. And whoa buddy, Congregation of the Damned DOES NOT DISSAPPOINT! From the first song, Stop! Before We've Destroyed It All, it is clear what Dan & Travis meant. COTD is a combination of LSPA and their other records. Dan & Travis smoke as usual on guitar, whether it's playing straight-up metalcore riffs or hard rock riffs. There are quite a few songs on this album that Alex sings, but he also balances that against some of the heaviest screaming he has done. There is not a song on this album I could refer to as bum. This album is full of guitar solos, and Brandon and Mike kill it on the drums & bass as usual. There's quite a few standouts on COTD. Gallows rocks with an almost thrashy vibe at times, and the chorus will be sure to be a sing-along at every Atreyu concert ever. On Storm To Pass, the first single, Atreyu balances some sick guitar riffery and solos with relatively clean sung vocals by Alex intermingled with screams. And when Brandon sings the chorus, it is clear why his voice is so essential in Atreyu. It's amazing, to simply put it, and my favorite song on the album. The song following Storm To Pass is You Were The King, Now You're Unconscious. The song has an epic intro that would work well in a concert setting. After that intro, the band blasts into a heavy rock tune with a ridiculous breakdown. Finally, in the last few songs, we get old Atreyu with the song Ravenous, the LSPA-era Atreyu in the songs Lonely and Wait For You. I would highly recommend looking for the version with two extra bonus tracks. I think the basic version of COTD has only 13 songs, but the version I got from Best Buy has two bonus tunes: We Are The Living Dead and Bravery. They're the heaviest tunes on COTD. The chorus to Bravery gets me everytime. Listen to it and you know why.
Lyrics — 8
Like I said before, Alex is back to screaming on COTD. However, his screaming is much different. On COTD, he ENUNCIATES. You can actually understand what he is saying when he's screaming (major plus for me). As for Brandon's singing, it's boss as always. The dude is a bitchin' singer. Alex's clean vocal aren't the best, but they're not terrible. In particular, his clean line "There is no pride involved in love" on So Wrong gets me everytime I hear it. As for the lyrics, they're mostly about the usual shit with Atreyu (love, anger, betrayal etc.) However, they're some social topics too. Insatiable seems to refer to materialism in American society, and Stop! Before We've Destroyed It All, seems to intermingle materialism again with destruction of the environment. Bleeding Is A Luxury is sort of about getting over your pain/demon. Black Days Again lyrically is the standard acopalypse-themed subject that seems to be running rampant in metal right now. We Are The Living Dead (one of the aforementioned bonus tracks) is to me a song about zombies. This section gets an 8 based on Brandon Saller's clean singing and Alex's improved screaming.
Overall Impression — 9
This album really only compares to Atreyu themselves. Alex V. Has said that their label begged them to record a heavier album, and thank God they listened. I love this album, and think it's the best Atreyu album yet. The standout songs for me are Bleeding Is A Luxury, Storm To Pass, Insatiable, Lonely, and Bravery. Call me an Atreyu fanboy if you want, I don't f--kING care! I love Congregation of the Damned and cannot wait for Atreyu to come back from their hiatus and record the follow-up. If it were lost/stolen, I'd buy another copy and thank the person who stole it for being smart enough to discover this album! It's a gem you'll rarely find in metal today ladies & gentleman: a band that can be heavy and melodic at the same time!