Sound — 6
Being a key display of the difficulty that bands can face when it comes to attempting to change in style and not fulfilling their original expectations, Atreyu's career - from its rocketing rise to a plummeting fall - has gone hand in hand with their sound. With their first three albums showing the band ascend from a promising new metalcore act to a household name for the genre, they would sign with the major label Hollywood Records in 2007. It was this point that Atreyu would attempt a big leap from their metalcore style into a more commercial-driven metal/rock style (it's easy to assume that the Disney-owned record label they were signed with was a big influencer of this change), and with their fourth album, "Lead Sails Paper Anchor," achieving better Billboard chart positions than any of their previous albums, it was also met with a wide panning from critics and listeners alike, stating how the band parlaying into this more accessible metal sound felt uncharacteristic, disingenuous, and lackluster.
That prominent sentiment was more or less the reason for Atreyu's goal of re-capturing their original, heavier metalcore style in their fifth album, "Congregation of the Damned." But despite the band overstating that intention, the album overall was a wishy-washy juggling act between the band's former sound and current sound. Still not dug out of their own hole, the band would go on hiatus to work on other projects, and with those side-projects going in different directions (from drummer Brandon Smaller's side-project Hell or Highwater being a more mainstream metal effort, to frontman Alex Varkatzas' side-project I Am War being an aggressive indulgence), it was another indication that Atreyu's direction was being pulled in too many uncooperative ways.
Having officially reunited a year ago with the clear intention of making their sixth album, Atreyu are still stuck at the crossroads they've been at since "Congregation...," and the question still remains: what sound does Atreyu want to reach for? With "Long Live," Atreyu once again go through the ringer for an amalgam sound like they did in "Congregation...," from the heavy and high-gear metalcore cuts of "Live to Labor" and the titular opener, to the elementary midtempo metal slugger "Cut Off the Head," and the gothy, drab ballad of "Moments Before Dawn."
In most cases, though, songs here pose as representatives of previous albums - the melodic metalcore style of "I Would Kill / Lie / Die (For You)" harks back to "A Death-Grip on Yesterday," the glam metal-inspired "Brass Balls" clearly belongs to the "Lead Sails Paper Anchor" days (as well as the stomp/clap arena metal cut "Do You Know Who You Are," which conjures a Queen's "We Will Rock You" vibe in an agonizing fit on injustice), and "Reckless" contains a number of characteristics from the "Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses" era, from the whisper vocals and tempo changes to the ending gang chant breakdown calling back to the final breakdown in "Lip Gloss and Black." The songs that re-invoke the style of "The Curse," however, end up being too on-the-nose - the gentle opening guitar melody and chugging verses in "A Bitter Broken Memory" seem quite familiar to "The Crimson," and the main triplet guitar riff and verse growls of "Heartbeats and Flatlines" staunchly emulates "Bleeding Mascara." But even if it's an almost purely shameless revamp of old material, Atreyu know that the old fans who have been waiting for another iteration of such will take it without complaint.
Lyrics — 6
Also being a mixed bag like the music, Varkatzas' lyrics in "Long Live" cover a number of bases. While the opening self-titled track serves as both a standard metalcore uplifter and a "we're back from our hiatus to kick ass" message (per obligation with any band's returning album), Varkatzas' latter-era penchant for lyrics with sociopolitical undertones and criticism of the droning majority make a substantial impact on the album, heard in "Start to Break" ("Mediocre, their soulless lives / They live for nothing, they have no pride") and "Live to Labor" (where Varkatzas mockingly growls "What do you offer? / What can you create? / What do you contribute? / What profit gets made?").
More than anything, though, Varkatzas brings back his doom and gloom emo style of lyrics as another appeal to classic-era Atreyu. Though "I Would Kill / Lie / Die (For You)" sets this dominant lyrical tangent on a positive, albeit extreme and obsessive, note in favor of love ("This I swear, my honor and hope / to hold and protect you, to fight each and every war"), Varkatzas' heart takes a beating throughout the rest of these bouts, from the relationship postmortem in "A Bitter Broken Memory" and the nihilistic and suicidal feelings in the wake of such in "Moments Before Dawn," to "Cut Off the Head" tapping back into the occult themes that were prevalent in the lyrics of Atreyu's early work.
Overall Impression — 6
For a returning album, the general mission of aggregating the numerous metal styles of Atreyu in "Long Live" treads a line of ambivalence. While this goal isn't the most ambitious, sacrifices the chance for a strong cohesiveness throughout the album, and essentially is just a repeat of the backpedaling likes of "Congregation...," "Long Live" still deserves credit for superseding the lesser output of its predecessor, especially in the midst of the many complaining that Atreyu have lost their capacity for heaviness, and though some of the rehashing of their early sound is more along the lines of following a template rather than influencing something fresh, it's still bound to please those who still have "The Curse" in their regular rotation. Overall, "Long Live" succeeds in proving that Atreyu can still dish out some decent metalcore.