For Fans Of
It must be frustrating for a band to constantly have their new material compared to one revered album. For Anberlin, fan-favourite Cities – released five years ago – is that album. Now, with Vital, their follow-up to 2010’s Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place, the band may have delivered a record that rivals the seemingly unattainable precedent set by Cities. Although comparisons might still be made, Vital is a record that, while preserving their core sound, sees Anberlin evolve and mark new territory.
Opening song ‘Self-Starter’, vibrant and melodic, offers a good indication of what the album has in store. High energy track ‘Little Tyrants’ follows, with the heavy wailing guitars under Stephen Christian’s gritty vocals supplying an aggressive dynamism.
Tying together ethereal electronic elements and a restrained performance from Christian, ‘Other Side’ offsets the record with a more laidback energy. Vital is scattered with these components, most prominent on ‘Intentions’ and ‘Innocent’. Both tracks, laced with electronic features alongside Christian’s subdued vocals, recall the distinct sounds of the 80s. ‘Type Three’ and ‘Orpheum’, interspersed with piano, contain a similar serene feeling.
A common aspect of Anberlin’s previous works is the seamless flow between temperate and high-powered songs, and that same balance is heard on Vital. The guitar-driven ‘Desires’ breaks up the tranquillity of the tracks bookending it with its potency and memorable chorus. Similarly, the velocity of ‘Someone Anyone’ lifts the dip in energy following ‘Other Side’.
The howling guitar work of Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, coupled with Nathan Young’s drumming, provide a strong backbone on ‘Modern Age’, as Stephen Christian rhetorically asks, "Don’t we all want to belong? Don’t we all write our own song?"
Vital comes to a close with ‘God, Drugs & Sex’, a steadily progressing atmospheric number. The song is propelled by Christian’s dreamy, fragile vocals, angelically backed and complemented by singer-songwriter Christie DuPree. As the haunting sounds of the closer fade out, remnants of the album’s well-crafted eleven tracks will linger on.
With a career spanning a decade, Anberlin continue to demonstrate their ability to grow on Vital. This record showcases the band at their most mature, and the melodies – enhanced by Stephen Christian’s pure tone – are some of the best they’ve produced in recent years. Vital will appeal to new listeners, in addition to (possibly) satisfying many long-time fans who have been craving an Anberlin record to match Cities.
2. Little Tyrants
3. Other Side
4. Someone Anyone
8. Type Three
10. Modern Age
11. God, Drugs & Sex