Sound — 9
After the mixed reviews and watered down sound of their previous album, Atreyu manage to hit the nail on the head with their second major label album, entitled: "The Congregation Of The Damned". This album perfectly sums up the band to point at which they are. After a quick turnaround, it has strong elements of the rough edge/core sound that characterised their earlier independent label years, but incorporates the more radio friendly/softer approach from their previous outing. For the last album: "Lead Sails, Paper Anchor", Atreyu found themselves in the position of having previously released three albums, and a Best-Of encompassing these efforts. So, for them to be only just releasing their major label debut put them in a slightly strange situation. The resulting album was missing many of the elements that the band were best known for, with a lack of riffs, and lack in the contrast provided by the change between screamed and clean vocals of their two singers. This was probably due to a combination of the ambition to experiment; that most artists get as they mature, and the pressure to be more accessible to a wider audience; created by joining a major label. It wasn't all in vain though, as this album has obviously benefited from the lessons learnt. What we have been left with are all the elements that we love about Atreyu, but now with more of a grandiose/fuller sound. The accessibility has been transferred, but the sell-out jaded sound hasn't. The main good news is that the riffs are back. However, unlike previous Atreyu albums, a dual guitar melody has been used with regularity throughout the album. In my opinion, this is a sound that has to generally employed with caution, as there is the risk of a very cheesy 80s hair metal sound. The result can sometimes be to give a singy-songy sound that can dilute the song's mood. Luckily, in case of this album, the rhythm guitar has been given a strong punchy sound in the mix meaning that most of the time that sort of cheesy sound is avoided.
Lyrics — 7
The band's lyrics have never really been the best thing about them. On some of their earlier albums, they have been pop punk or verging on emo' (dare I say). This previous tendency is hinted at; with two of the songs having particularly long names, a trait typical of a few bands that emerged around the same time as Atreyu. Don't get me wrong however-we aren't verging into the lows of unoriginality and cheesiness. On the subject of the lyrics, one of the singers was quoted as saying: "It kind of feels like in a lot of ways that we, as members of a society, are just gathering around and collectively getting f***ed over. When you look at what's going on in our economy and how other people treat each other, it's kind of like we're all just lemmings. We're lined up blankly staring blindly at nothing and just going along with the flow like a congregation of the damned. So this record really reflects my thoughts and feelings about that in every possible way." That pretty much covers a lot of the songs' lyrical content on this. The track Wait For You is the exception to this though, as it covers the subject of a relationship. The singing is good on this album. The vocals come from a singer, and also the drummer. The combination of their vocals works well. The vocals have a got a good balance between singing and screaming. At regular points such as choruses, both of the singers sing together giving a nice full sound, as the slight difference between their voices gives some nice variation. Ultimately the lyrics and singing go very well with the music, but the lyrics aren't what you would call ground breaking.
Overall Impression — 9
Here's a breakdown of the tracks: 01. "Stop! Before It's Too Late & We've Destroyed It All": The album opener wastes no time in showing off the full return of riffs with an air guitar worthy intro. Pretty much screaming vocals throughout but still catchy. 02. "Bleeding Is A Luxury": The first time in the album you come across some clean vocals. The use of dramatic sounding strings in the breakdown is interesting. The song is slightly catchy but nothing special. 03. "Congregation Of The Damned": The title track has an unstoppable feel to it. Mostly clean vocals, but still has bite. The chorus has layered vocals with reverb to make it sound like a group of people are singing it. 04. "Coffin Nails": Starts with an almost oriental sounding mess of notes before kicking into the main dual guitar intro. Has a catchy chorus. 05. "Black Days Begin": This song has a great groove to it, but laden with a foreboding tone. A good mix of clean and screamed vocals. A good solo as well. 06. "Gallows": Starts with another good riff. Has a chorus that questioning feel with the final line saying: "Don't think we don't see your scars, Are you afraid of who you are?" The interlude is dramatic and compliments well. 07. "Storm To Pass": A nice soft intro with clean guitars leads nicely into the rest song. Another catchy chorus is interspersed with verses that have call/response feel. 08. "You Were The King, Now You're Unconscious": A long dramatic intro that slowly builds up leads into a killer riff. At times this song sounds like one of the heaviest on the album. Again a good balance between cleaning and screaming vocals in the verse, followed by a catchy dual vocal chorus. 09. "Insatiable": cool guitar solo, and good chorus. Says it all really. 10. "So Wrong": Dual guitar intro starts off the song. Soft verses and angry choruses. In the same way as "Storm To Pass" does, it continues the direction of the rest of the album, but having a slightly different verses breaks up potential monotony from listening to the album the whole way through. 11. "Ravenous": Starts off at a frantic pace that continues through the song. Solos at the beginning and middle are good. Sadly the rest of the song doesn't quite live up to it. Screamed verses and a weak chorus that don't really seem to fit together. 12. "Lonely": Has the same relentless rhythm to it as the title track. Catchy chorus, good vocals. 13. "Wait For You": The surprise track in context to the rest of the album. A piano based ballad with a distinctly epic feel to it. The singers get to show off their soft side. A moving chorus tops it all off, and means that even with the multitude of layers, it doesn't sound too overblown. Overall this album has plenty of things to applaud, with catchy choruses and good guitar work. While having elements of metal I would describe it as a hard rock album. Running through most of the tracks, is a relentless beat. So while listening to the album as whole, it almost seems like the music is ferrying you along with the congregation of the damned described. The album is great to listen to while driving, but you run the danger of getting a speeding ticket! If you were going to buy only one Atreyu album then it should be this one. However, this album is not perfect, and is far from ground breaking but if you want a dependable, consistent album then this more than fits the bill.