June 1, 2021 Atreyu – Baptize (Album Review)
One of the most underrated bands on the scene today, Metalcore pioneers Atreyu return with Baptize on Friday, June 4, 2021 thanks to Spinefarm Records.
However, they are returning minus a key figure, Vocalist Alex Varkatzas, who departed from the fold in 2020. Which makes their eighth full-length their first without the founding member, who fronted the band through their exceptional 2002 debut, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, as well as 2004’s The Curse, 2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor, 2018’s In Our Wake, and everything in between.
A well-established and beloved Metal act with over two decades of creating under their collective belt, Atreyu—Vocalist/Keyboardist Brandon Saller, Guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel, Bassist/Vocalist Porter McKnight, and Drummer Kyle Rosa—are not wasting any time when it comes to delivering new material. With a fluid shift of roles and the addition of Rosa, they are back to begin a new chapter with the 15-song wallop of Baptize. Produced by longtime collaborator and friend John Feldmann (Good Charlotte, Black Veil Brides), the album picks up where their last left off; continuing to meld old lip gloss with a most modern black. (Bad pun, we apologize!)
With a graceful shift from behind the kit to frontman, Saller leads his bandmates into their characteristic gang vocals to invite listeners into the collection with “Strange Power Of Prophecy.” It’s a one-minute introduction that sets the mood for the proper first track, and album namesake, “Baptize,” a bold explosion that demands raised fists and sing-alongs. Which is exactly what one would expect of Atreyu, but with enough of a twist to keep things feeling fresh.
In fact, throughout the album there are plenty of tracks that might have fit perfectly on the aforementioned In Our Wake, such as the lofty crunch of “Save Us” and current single/video “Catastrophe,” which shows the quartet’s exceptional personality. But the songs that combine classic Atreyu elements with a more modern interpretation of their sound (“Broken Again,” “Fucked Up”) serve as some of the album’s highlights.
Achieving a powerful balance between the past and the future, they are careful to never abandon their roots in favor of sampled beats and millennial whoops. They continue to play to their strengths, whether that is allowing Jacobs’ fancy fretwork to take center-stage or simply taking a moment for Saller (backed by McKnight) to completely lose his mind (“Underrated”). Though some of the brightest moments are also the surprises, the instances where the band takes a chance and defies genre standards. Case in point, the bittersweet little rocker “Stay,” a perfect representation of Saller’s unstoppable vocal finesse. Or “Oblivion,” where, despite Matt Heafy’s gritty contributions, its massive, infectious choruses wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a Top 40 Pop track.
In fact, if Baptize was a cassette, its B-side would be a serious contender for supremacy. Here, they provide that they are far from stale (“Sabotage Me”), provide a touch of inspirational light (“No Matter What”) that would make their friends in Good Charlotte proud, and then shove it all aside for some good ‘ole Rock-n-Roll on “Untouchable.” Tailor-made for one of those “try not to sing-along” videos, the radio ready rocker could have easily fit on a Papa Roach disc. So, appropriately, they invite Jacoby Shaddix for a guest spot before ending with the Travis Barker-blessed “Warrior.”
Due to the loss of the band’s previous vocal dynamics, there are times where, yes, the album can feel a bit more polished, much in thanks to Saller’s switch to frontman. Far from a death blow, it is merely the mark of one of the best voices in Rock-n-Roll stepping into the lead and taking the group’s already lofty choruses to new heights. But there is still plenty of heaviness throughout Baptize for fans to passionately devour.
So, to cut to the chase, is the album “pretend heavy”? Definitely not, but it’s also not the heaviest material you’ve ever heard from the band either. Sitting somewhere between its Feldmann-produced siblings Lead Sails Paper Anchor and In Our Wake, it maintains a heavy emphasis on melodic hooks while the boys remain true to the bite and brutality that we know and love. A suitable follow-up to their previously mentioned 2018 release, Baptize is a new chapter in the never-ending story of a band who refuses to deliver an identical recording with each record. For all of the above reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Atreyu’s latest 4.5 of 5 stars.