With the release of its sixth full-length album Vital, the alternative quintet Anberlin returns to the hard-hitting, infectious energy that hasn’t been heard since its 2007 release of Cities.
Vital is a cohesive album that blends exceptional musicianship with a wide range of stylistic and thematic elements, making it the best effort that Anberlin has put out in years.
Vital starts out with the fast-paced “Self-Starter,” a song that embodies everything that Anberlin hopes to achieve with this album.
Nathan Young’s powerful drum work drives the song and effortlessly blends the guitars and vocals of his fellow band mates. “Self-Starter” gives the listener a taste of the skill and energy that defines Vital.
Throughout the album, singer Stephen Christian displays his vocal prowess, ranging from the raw, gritty sound found in songs such as “Little Tyrants” and “Desires” to the soft croons on emotional tracks like “Other Side” and “Type Three.”
Christian said in an interview with CBS Local that one goal in the production of Vital was to make an album that came close to the sound and feel of a live performance, and his vocals succeed in making that goal a reality.
One of the album’s most successful aspects is the effective incorporation of electronic elements on almost every track. On “Intentions,” the electronics overlay with heavy guitars to emit an almost ‘80s dance vibe. The slower “Innocent” creates a somber mood that mirrors the intimate and personal subject matter of the lyrics.
Lyrically, the album is versatile. Throughout Vital, Christian demonstrates a willingness to tackle a diverse spectrum of topics, ranging from the 2011 Arab Spring on “Little Tyrants” and “Someone Anyone” to the death of his grandfather on “Innocent” to love in a modern, technological age on “Modern Age.”
The missteps on Vital are few and far between. Halfway through, “Innocent” takes a drastic shift in tempo from the more aggressive songs before it, and this change interrupts the otherwise flawless flow of the album.
“Innocent” sounds like it would be better suited for Christian’s acoustic side project, Anchor & Braille. The same goes for the closer, “God, Drugs, & Sex,” which fails to build off of the energy and passion of the songs before it.
Anberlin succeeds in creating a powerful and dynamic record with Vital. The passion, cohesion and versatility all work together to create an album that leaves the listener wanting more. Without a doubt, this album is a career-defining work for the band. Anberlin is back.