Anberlin – Vital
Recently, I was with a friend of mine trying to get a pair of subs working in my car. We were doing a lot of wiring, I don’t know much about it, so I bugged him with a lot of questions. I ended up learning a lot just by watching him do all the work and from his answers to my silly inquiries. A few days later, a new series started on TV called Revolution. For those who don’t know, the premise of the show is that everything has stopped working. Everything electronic; completely kaput. Not long after I started following that show, I was texting a friend of mine, and mid-conversation she informs me that she accidentally shocked herself while changing a light bulb. That then insinuated a large string of really bad electricity-related pun jokes from me. There have actually been a lot of things related to electricity that have been popping up randomly in my life recently. It wasn’t until this evening that I actually sat down and realized this pattern existed at all.
“I wanted this to be just electricity, just vibrant – that’s how we came up with that title, ‘Vital,’” Anberlin’s vocalist Stephen Christian stated, when they teased fans with their lead single, “Self-Starter”.
So my pattern continues.
My favorite of release from Anberlin has always been their sophomore release, Never Take Friendship Personal, but the general consensus of the fanbase is that their peak release has been Cities. When they released New Surrender, I liked it, but I found it to be their weakest album, as I hardly return to it and only find a couple songs memorable. They did redeem themselves, however, with their next album Dark is a Way Light is a Path, which I found to be a stellar release, but it still didn’t reach the same stature of my two favorites. Two years pass, and as a new album was on the horizon, many fans began wondering if they will ever be able to top something as good as the highly regarded Cities.
It may be too soon to tell, but in my opinion, Vital has done exactly that.
Vital is exactly what Stephan Christian said they wanted it to be. It is vibrant. It is electricity. Anberlin has brought back the youthful energy of NTFP, combined it with the maturity and class of Cities, and then on top of that, they added a completely new component of electricity to their music that fuses perfectly with the aforementioned elements. Then to top it all off, they follow through with something else that was promised: this is indeed their heaviest album to date.
Their sound has received a complete overhaul, but at the same time Anberlin remains the same band they have always been. Synthesizers and keys are used in almost every song to create excellent grooves and graceful melodies. The guitar work is grittier than ever and give several tracks the edgy sound that Anberlin has been lacking for quite a long time. The seventh track on the album, “Desires” displays this in particular, and is probably the heaviest track they have crafted. “Little Tyrants”, “Self-starter”, and “Someone Anyone” are not far behind in terms of heaviness either. Their drummer, Nathan Young, has shown obvious improvement with each record. Every album I’ve noticed it, and he continues to improve and impress in Vital by driving the music with fun, hard hitting, and complicated beats, percussion, and fills.
Despite the excellent quality of the music, to me Stephen Christian is what makes Anberlin who they are. His voice is known for being incredibly unique, and Vital proves that. The second track, “Little Tyrants”, is one of the catchiest tracks on the album (“Intentions” being the most), and that is largely due to the way Stephen sings the pre-chorus. As is tradition, they conclude the album with an “epic”. Though “God, Sex, and Drugs” is not my favorite conclusion that they’ve done, Stephen shows off more of his vocal ability hitting notes on both the top and bottom of the spectrum. The song’s style reminds me a lot of how his side project, Anchor & Braille, sounds.
As I’ve listened to Vital, I have picked the album apart, analyzing every piece. I particularly was looking for things I didn’t like, anything negative at all. In all sincerity, I’ve found essentially nothing. Every track serves a distinct purpose, including the two slower songs “Type Three” and “Innocent”. It flows seamlessly from beginning to end, and begs you to press replay. At times I could think of it as nothing but pure audible bliss. It really does have a spark to it, a current, an electricity, that you can feel pulsing through your veins. Anberlin has successfully created an album that will immediately please fans of both their old and new work, and at the same time, Vital will attract brand new fans. I won’t go so far as to say that it blows the esteemed Cities out of the water, but I believe Vital has taken a careful step into first place as the pinnacle release of their career.