It’s all been leading to this.
Every time Anberlin releases a new album I get giddy as a school girl. It’s been that way since Never Take Friendship Personal when I had the honor of bumping into lead singer Stephen Christian after a show by their merch booth when they were still a fairly unknown band trying to find a sizable fan base. From that day, after seeing them perform on stage – their energy, their passion, and their talent – I was hooked.
Anberlin has, in my opinion, been one of the most consistently on top of their game groups I have ever heard. I know a lot of purists consider New Surrender and Dark is the Way, Light is a Place as good efforts but ultimately their two weakest albums and that Cities is pretty much the gold standard and the pinnacle of their song writing, but I disagree. There isn’t an Anberlin album that has been what I would consider sub-par and, as is necessary of all long journeys, has aided in forcing the band to try and explore new creative avenues, sounds, lyrics, and themes. Whether or not you like New Surrender and Dark is the Way what can’t be disagreed with is that they were the necessary steps on the band’s road to the masterpiece that is Vital.
Vital is, without question, Anberlin’s greatest album to date. I know Cities fans, I know, that’s hard to believe. Trust me, it took listening to nearly a dozen times to come to this conclusion. Where Cities set the band on their greatest stride toward creating big, unique, moving songs that culminated with the epic “*fin”, Vital does that and then some. Cities was Anberlin realizing, Vital is Anberlin realized.
Since their start they’ve toyed with 80′s pop songs which resulted in some pretty masterful covers, but that’s as close as we’ve gotten to them actually embracing it until now. This album is so much a combination of various genres that to describe it you’d think it would be impossible to actually succeed, but somehow they pulled it off. Stephen Christian described it as the album they wanted to make for their fans, to see them singing along during their shows and at a point of near rioting was what really invigorated them and made them want to make a real hard hitting album. If you’ve heard both “Self Starter” and “Someone Anyone”, that’s just the start of it. Tracks like “Little Tyrants” and “Desires” in addition to the former two really light this album up as some heavy anthem rock, worthy of non-stop fist pumping, moshing, cheering, and, yes, screaming along just as Anberlin had hoped.
But the unexpected really comes from the band embracing their 80′s pop influence on the tracks “Other Side”, “Intentions” and the masterful ballad “Innocent.” I’m not kidding, “Innocent” plays so smoothly it’s as if they were listening to Giorgio Moroder’s Neverending Story score when they wrote the track. This song makes me feel like I’m riding on the back of Falcor the Luck Dragon. Seriously.
And the band finally does what I’ve been waiting for them to do since Cities, they end the album in a big, BIG way. “*fin” is such a gorgeously constructed piece that it became impossible to top. Cities ends with you turning down the volume and stopping to pause and reflect on the glory that you just experienced. Vital is very much the same. “Modern Age” is a familiar tune, with plenty of echoing chorus’ and electronic notes to escalate the album into its finale, “God, Drugs, and Sex”, a heart-wrenchingly painful but incredibly emotional and moving track that it easily evokes tears. Also utilizing Nashville singer Julia Marie (she contributed to “Self Starter”) the track elevates the album to a ethereal place, much as “*fin” did for Cities. And when the album spins down it inspires time for much needed reflection. What journey did they just take you on? It hits hard like a Rock and Roll freight train, it makes you tap your toes and jump for joy with some solid 80′s pop/rock, and most of all it made you feel in the way all good albums should. When it’s over, you are not the same person you were when the journey began. That’s the reason I’ve always been drawn to Anberlin. They’re one of the few bands I’ve ever heard who understands how to musically orchestrate the saying, “It isn’t the destination, it’s the journey.”
To say they’ve outdone themselves in an understatement. I’m in a constant yearning for more and more of their music and I could listen to each album beginning with Blueprints for the Black Market and ending with Vital and never skip a single track. If you’re new to the band, Vital introduces them to you in a BIG way. You’ve been spoiled if this is the case and you should be grateful. But if you’ve been a fan of them for some time, it’s time to stand up and rejoice. Whether or not you liked their past two albums is irrelevant, as I said it’s all be leading to this.
And this is a masterpiece.
Vital is released on 16th October.
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