After two years of composition and compilation to change their sound, Anberlin released “Vital,” their sixth album, on Tuesday, Oct 16. The album still relies on Stephen Christian’s big vocals just as before; however, the more electronic-based melodies incorporated into the rock style in this album expanded the alternative niche the band excelled in since 2005. The whole idea of this supposed breakthrough album was to emanate “youthful, energetic energy” and “keep it to that rock thing but just change it up,” lead singer Stephen Christian and drummer Nathan Young explain.
Despite the prominent dark themes of war and anger expressed throughout the 12 tracks, the album seems to follow Anberlin’s vision of the new energy-infused rock. The track “Self-Starter” appropriately opens the album. Guitar and synth sounds create an intricate, rhythmic melody that align with the rock vocals and it is here that the “energetic energy” is evident. I expected it to clash, but Anberlin composed it effortlessly. It’s almost as if the track’s melody was influenced by a pre-pubescent Grouplove. There are also the oh-so-classic rock anthems “Little Tyrants” and “Someone Anyone,” which consist of passionate lyrics. These stereotypical anthems prove worthy of a listen solely because of their strong drum fills that accompany their resonant chorus.
It was the transition from an upbeat anthem to a techno-filled ballad of “Other Side” that became the album’s downfall—all I heard for four minutes was non-stop complaining that just reminded me of No Doubt’s “Say That You Love Me.” Tracks “Desire” and “Type Three” were even worse. Even “Unstable,” the best-selling track of the album, is a disappointment. Its heart-wrenching lyrics cannot save it from the unenthused mood established by its underwhelming predecessors.
Where “Self Starter” was a step in the right direction for Anberlin to achieve even more success in the future, the majority of the album came off as a miscommunication of their vision for “Vital.” Don’t get me wrong, the album in its entirety still reflects growth in Anberlin’s sound as an alternative rock group, but it didn’t hit the target they were aiming for. Nonetheless, Anberlin released a decent album. They can only go up from here.