Sound — 7
There's been a bit more talk surrounding Atreyu's latest album, primarily because it strays from the band's usual metalcore sound and has replaced it with straightforward melodic rock. This should undoubtedly have Atreyu purists feeling a little uncomfortable, but there are more than a few successful moments on the Orange County natives' latest album Lead Sails Paper Anchor. The '80s metal influence is undeniable and it's actually very refreshing to hear an all-out whammy bar solo again. While the nostalgia aspect is a lot of fun, the album still never lives up to the greats of the hair metal era -- or the metalcore era for that matter.
The opener Doomsday immediately jumps into the '80s vibe with an incredible guitar intro and things look very promising. There are even some nice chanted group vocals, which might just be a nod to an '80s classic like Balls To The Wall." The vocals actually feel Mike Patton-esque at times, bouncing from a rapped, gritty vocal to some nice harmonies. It's an interesting mish-mesh of sounds, but something does feel missing. As impressive as the musicianship is, Doomsday still feels like it's been done before by a dozen other bands.
Atreyu fairs better on Becoming The Bull, which surprisingly enough, features a dark-sounding riff that feels like a watered-down version of Raining Blood by Slayer. Rather than sounding brutally heavy, the main guitar riff has a groove-oriented twist on it. It's still a fairly edgy riff and it would have been nice to have vocals that echoed that same style. There are a few moments during the song when vocalist Alex Varkatzas tries out a grittier vocal style and lets out a roar, but that testosterone-driven style is a rarity for the most part.
The closing number Lead Sails (And A Paper Anchor) is hands-down the most surprising track on the CD. From the moment you hear the Eagles-esque slide guitar intro, you know you're in for the big epic ending. There are some gorgeous harmonies in the song and it absolutely stands out as being the most original song on Lead Sails Paper Anchor. While much of the album feels like an homage to hair metal, Lead Sails is the best example of the band's true creativity because they didn't worry about trying to recreate any genre.
Lyrics — 8
Like the music on the CD, the lyrics have their ups and downs. The band's most intriguing song happens to also be the best track musically on the CD, Lead Sails (And A Paper Anchor). The track avoids any generic lyrics and paints a more vivid picture. Varkatzas sings, Withering away, her sinking violet dies; So full of life, these lights have dried me out; Into the sea, I needed a drink; I never thought this would consume me whole. Even though the sea theme has been done before, Atreyu does a solid job at the imagery it uses.
For the rock songs the band often takes the angry approach, which works well for the style. Blow is probably the angriest of them all with lyrics like, So f--kin' blow those words out the back of your head; I've heard it all and I'm done with that shit; You tell me lies; And you get what you get. Again, the theme is not necessarily new, but it's an aggressive number that calls for a basic approach.
Overall Impression — 7
Guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel do supply some incredible Steve Vai-like guitar solos, and that is absolutely the highlight of Atreyu's latest album. The solos do tend to steal the spotlight and it's very cool to see a metalcore band attempt to try out something completely new. Varkatzas' vocals don't quite recreate the '80s, but they are still strong enough to cover plenty of ground, whether a ballad or an angry tirade.
While the band does deserve credit for taking a risk, Atreyu's fan base might be a little disheartened by the new sound. There are some nice melodies throughout, but that might not be enough. With the exception of a song like Lose It, which feels the most like a metalcore song, Lead Sails Paper Anchor is a very different animal and may leave fans scratching their heads.