Anberlin – Vital
Record Label: Universal Republic
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Anberlin vocalist Stephen Christian has been a busy man this year; he released an album entitled The Quiet Life under his indie/folk pseudonym Anchor and Braille, and finally he, along with the rest of Anberlin, released the much anticipated follow-up to 2010’s Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place. The general consensus on the record was that it was ultimately disappointing. I really agree with that. The record was enjoyable, and it was quite ambitious. It just didn’t live up to the expectations people had for it after 2008’s New Surrender. Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. They were trying to go for something a little bit different, and it worked to some degree. A few tracks were absolutely marvelous, but others were very boring, and disappointing, even for Anberlin. That’s why Vital was very much anticipated by people; they were really hoping for something better, and boy, did Anberlin deliver. This is without a doubt, one of the best releases of the year. I’m a bit new to the Florida five-piece, having only gotten into them in the first half 2010 before Dark Is the Way was released. I had a chance to listen to all of their past releases, and the two that really stuck with me were 2007’s Cities and 2005’s Never Take Friendship Personal, which still remains one of my favorite records today. Ultimately, since each record had a different sound, I wasn’t sure what to expect on Dark Is the Way, or even Vital. As I mentioned, Vital is certainly a very refreshing sound from the band, and this was an extremely welcomed album.
The record starts off with “Self-Starter,” and I think that name is a bit ironic, but it’s a monster of a track, nonetheless. It starts out with guitarist Joseph Milligan and rhythm guitarist Christian McAlhaney opening with a very strong riff, and at 30 seconds, vocalist Stephen Christian kicks in with his signature voice and the track absolutely kills it. It really starts off the album with a bang, essentially. The pre-chorus has a very interesting vocal effect that I really, really like. Second track “Little Tyrants” starts off with a very rock-oriented guitar riff, and it’s clearly an Anberlin track. This is one of my favorite songs on the record, because everything works so well here. There’s even an awesome guitar solo that leads into a really cool bridge with Christian singing with a drumbeat and hand claps. Third track “Someone Anyone” is the first single from the album, and that alone makes it worth mentioning. This was the first track that was released from the album earlier this year, and I’m kind of surprised they used this as the first single, because it’s rather weak. It’s enjoyable, but I don’t quite get much from it. Others may disagree, but this track feels very lacking to me. I don’t dislike this track, it just baffles me why they used it as the first single. In all honesty, it seems like a B-side on Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, although, it does have a very catchy chorus. That’s really the only thing I can take from it, but other than that, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression on me. The lyrics are rather interesting, however; they do have a real message, but Anberlin’s lyrics are usually quite solid, so I have no problems with them whatsoever.
As the record goes on, it’s clear that Anberlin have returned. Fourth track “Intentions” is more “electronic,” in the sense that the backbone of the song are Christian’s skills on the keyboard. With many songs in Anberlin’s catalogue, it’s no surprise there’s a very catchy chorus on this track. If anything, I think one of the biggest things on this record are the choruses and how massive they are. That’s really where Anberlin shine. Another track that displays this is seventh track “Desires,” and this is my favorite song from the record. It shows Anberlin at their very best, and it’s one of the best songs of their career. Next track “Type Three,” is a slower track has some very interesting vocal effects from Christian, and while it’s not as much of a rocker as “Little Tyrants,” it provides some contrast. In fact, the middle of the record slows down as a whole; after “Desires,” the record has a slower sound, but it does work. It’s not boring, and it does pick up again with tenth track “Modern Age,” and last track “Gods, Drugs, and Sex.” The former is a very eerie track that has a very strong chorus by Christian (as usual), and is a very interesting track altogether. The latter is a six-minute monster of a track, although, this track does seem a bit too long at times. It’s not very energetic, but it just sounds absolutely beautiful. It features guest vocals from Eisley vocalist Christie DuPree, and she does quite well. Eisley is one of my favorite bands, and the “duet” Christian and DuPree perform is really cool. The lyrics on this song are also very cool, and flow together quite nicely.
On the Best Buy deluxe copy of the album, it comes with two bonus tracks, so how are they? Well, they’re quite good, but if you’re new to Anberlin, it’s not a huge deal if you listen to these tracks, although the second track “No Love to Speak” is absolutely fantastic. I’m surprised it wasn’t included on the album, but this song is great. The first track “Said Too Much” is great, but I can see why they didn’t include it on the album. If you don’t listen to these two tracks, you’re not missing out on much, because the album does end nicely on “God, Drugs, and Sex,” and it’s clearly a “last” track, hence it being 6 minutes. There aren’t really many problems with this album; some have said it’s the band’s best album since 2007’s Cities, and I’d agree with that. While that’s a wonderful record, this certainly does have a “retro” quality, where it brings to mind “older” Anberlin, and even a lot of new things that were found on 2010’s Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place. It’s almost like they combined the new and the old Anberlins to create something even better.