October 8, 2018 Atreyu – In Our Wake (Album Review)
Theirs is a never-ending story of amazing music, and Atreyu are now ready to make their triumphant ‘return’ with In Our Wake, which arrives Friday, October 12, 2018, thanks to SpineFarm Records.
Named for one of the main characters in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, Atreyu were a part of the original, glorious Orange County Metalcore scene. Here, they formed in 1999 and went on to make their exceptional debut with Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses in 2002. The Curse followed in 2004, along with four more releases spread across the next eleven years, ranging from 2006’s A Death-Grip On Yesterday to 2015’s Long Live. Each successive album only served to strengthen the band’s reputation for their stellar blend of heavy-hitting Metal and deliciously soaring melodies thanks, in part, to their singing Drummer, Brandon Saller.
Brilliant at everything they do, Atreyu – Vocalist Alex Varkatzas, Guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel, Bassist Porter McKnight, and Drummer/Vocalist/Keyboardist Saller – are almost guaranteed to deliver greatness on their seventh full-length offering, In Our Wake. The twelve-song offering was produced by John Feldmann of Goldfinger (Good Charlotte, Ded), who helmed the band’s Lead Sails, Paper Anchor in 2007. Of the reunion, Saller explains: “While we were on the road, fans kept asking to hear more from Lead Sails and Paper Anchor. It made us revisit that era of the band. It was a fun, experimental, and explorative time for us, which is so fun. We wanted to give ourselves and the landscape of heavy music a jolt, so we reached out to Feldmann.”
In Our Wake opens to its namesake track, the album’s first single/video, an infectious rocker full of Saller’s soaring melodies that keenly observe and question what we are doing to the world around us. This sociopolitical awareness begins here but rings heavily throughout the entirety of In Our Wake, showing a matured Atreyu, a band who are heavy – in sound and lyrical intelligence. Next, they go gritty, pulsating guitars with Varkatzas and Saller’s stellar dueling vocals on the welcoming embrace of “House of Gold.” Here, there’s an overall darker vibe, more of the traditional Atreyu that we know and love; the end result is killer Rock with a delicious, melodic edge.
The theme of acknowledging the importance of precious resources, particularly time, continues on second single/video “The Time Is Now,” an addictive, anthemic declaration of feeling alive and embracing the now. This helps the boys dial it up to frenetic, fevered Metal guitars and jack-hammering drums for “Nothing Will Ever Change,” a lament that our destructive natures are doomed to be the downfall of us all. While it’s full of fear for the future, it sounds like a kick-ass, horns-raised slam dance.
“Blind Deaf & Dumb” opens with a gang vocal chant that explodes into Varkatzas doing an enraged rap, creating a sociopolitical Rap-Rock commentary that is not your typical Atreyu, and yet it works brilliantly. (Plus, they ask some truly important questions, including the probing “How can you fix the world if you can’t fix yourself?”) Conversely, they tame themselves down and inject electronic atmospherics for the delicate, ballad-esque “Terrified,” an ode to those that have brought light into life to help chase away the darkness.
Lest you start to believe that Atreyu have gone soft, they pump it back up for full-bodied rocker “Safety Pin.” Similarly, the gang vocal chants of “Into The Open” build into a rallying cry (“I don’t choose the battles, no, they chose me”) that morphs into an equally lofty rocker. This all flows into a stunning infectiousness on meandering rocker “Paper Castle,” moments of hip-swaying intermingled with blistering rage that craft a truly stand-out moment in this collection. It’s a breath of fresh air before the bass-heavy, muddy groove of “No Control” dips low, at least, in its verses, then moves into melodic, sing-along-worthy choruses that serve to fuel the brutal assault of “Anger Left Behind.” Here, Varkatzas explodes into an inferno of rage that shows delicious glimpses back to the band’s earliest days. Ain’t it grand?
At over six minutes, album closer “Super Hero” is almost guaranteed to be a grandiose production. Complete with orchestration that includes horn and flutes, guest vocals from M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold and Aaron Gillespie of Underoath, this is a cinematically-sweeping sound that takes listeners on a magnificent journey that includes notes of Queen and, well, the world of Disney. A beautiful promise from a group of fathers to their little ones, “Super Hero” is a loving song of the most fantastical proportions that closes out In Our Wake on a truly impressive and inspiring note.
Over the past decade or so, Atreyu has steadily been moving away from their early Metalcore days toward a more straightforward Hard Rock sound – and this persists on In Our Wake. Lest you shake your head in disappointment, it works beautifully for Atreyu! Here, they retain their gritty edge and never go for the obvious, instead, they perfectly translate their in-your-face approach to the ‘new’ format, adding a sociopolitical bent to much of their lyrical commentary. It’s older and wiser, the mark of a more mature band.
There is anger and understanding, hope and hypocrisy throughout the stories of In Our Wake, all coming together to formulate a great record with some truly superb moments. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Atreyu’s In Our Wake 4 of 5 stars.