After their major label debut New Surrender in 2008, Anberlin began to move in a different direction from their stellar, and still superlative, Never Take Friendship Personal. With Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place, the band improved on the new style, but it still failed to live up to the expectations of fans clinging to hope they’d return to the less mainstream alternative rock sound of the past. Before the release of the newly released Vital, lead singer Stephen Christian said Anberlin’s sixth album would be their most aggressive to date. What he didn’t mention was how much prevalence would be given to the use of electronic programming and synthesizers that would be necessary for the band to return to their heavier roots. How fans respond to this album will likely be based upon two major factors: their opinion of Anberlin’s last two albums and how much electronic influence they can stomach. Because while it certainly lends to the angst and heavy nature of Vital, it can be a bit overbearing at times too.
“Self-Starter” embodies the wild and untamable heart that beats throughout Vital. The synthesizer beats are a wonderful addition here, giving this leadoff track a dynamic extra punch behind a torrent of Nathan Young’s drumming and electrifying guitar riffs from Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney. But even more impressive are frontman Christian’s vocals, which rise and fall dramatically, soaking in the echo of the synthesizers before erupting during each action-packed chorus. Simply put, Anberlin delivers on any and all promises of a return to a tougher tone from the first track, which is the best Vital has to offer.
The opening riffs of the hit single “Someone Anyone” buzz with a deep-toned resonance to give this infectious track an extra kick. Christian continues to dazzle with his ever-fluctuating vocals, while the high-octane chorus is one of the catchiest and most upbeat of Anberlin’s entire song catalogue. It’s anti-war message is prevalent, but doesn’t detract from its upbeat approach. So even with all the electronic tinkering, this song is the definition of heavy, enjoyable and surprisingly accessible rock music.
The epic closer “God, Drugs & Sex” and the ambitiously synth-filled “Orpheum” make strong cases as some of Vital‘s best offerings, but “Modern Age” blows the majority of this album out of the water between the aggressive drumming, scaling guitar riffs and Christian’s urgent vocal performance. Displaying one of the recurring themes of the album, this awesome song utilizes a little too much electronic interference, but the result is still pleasant and prominent enough to impress.
Packed with power chords, arena rock anthems and an high-intensity passion not seen from Anberlin in years, Vital picks up the tempo and reminds fans that this band still has the explosive energy to captivate and entertain. The group’s sixth album moves away from the two mainstream records that preceded it, and although New Surrender and Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place were necessary for Anberlin to arrive at this stage in their discography, Vital delivers a high-powered dose of hard-hitting rock goodness. The synthesizers and electronic influence can be a bit cumbersome at times, but overall, Anberlin has produced an album that will appeal to fans of their older style and supporters of their mainstream efforts. From the deep bass hook of “Desires” to the heartfelt sentiments in the ballad “Innocent,” fans of Switchfoot, Emery, Relient K, Jimmy Eat World, Anchor & Braille, Mae, Copeland, Cartel, Saosin, The Starting Line and The Almost will be right at home with Anberlin’s newest album, which won’t surpass Never Take Friendship Personal or Cities as the band’s best work, but will certainly prove to be crucial in revitalizing their career.
Final Score: 7.7/10
Rank: 4th (six total albums)
- Little Tyrants
- Other Side
- Someone Anyone
- Type Three
- Modern Age
- God, Drugs & Sex