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610KuyUzHiL. SL160 The metalcore and screamo explosion of the early 2000’s brought with it an onslaught of bands that disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived. The few innovators that stuck around have done so by means of evolution rather than extinction, a necessity to avoid becoming lost in a sea of sound-a-like bands with similar vibes and inferior songwriting.
One such band is undoubtedly Atreyu, who first gained notoriety through their 2002 album SUICIDE NOTES AND BUTTERFLY KISSES, which would later see a re-issue and go onto sell over 240,000 copies. 

With two more albums on Victory (2004’s THE CURSE and 2006’s A DEATH GRIP ON YESTERDAY), the band continued to gain fans and attracted the attention of Hollywood Records who would sign the band and release 2007’s LEAD SAILS PAPER ANCHOR – an album met by harsh criticism from the “too-hip-for-your-scene-I-liked-em-first-and-will-stop-listening-because-they’re-on-a-major-now” crowd.

While some loathed the change from noise to melody, I didn’t like LEAD SAILS. I LOVED IT.

Had the band not made a sonic change at that very moment in time, it is very likely we would not be talking about them right now. While THE CURSE and DEATH-GRIP sold well, they really became “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” in a genre that became ridiculously stale incredibly fast.

Now we have the release of CONGREGATION OF THE DAMNED (out today), Atreyu’s second major-label effort and an important record for a band seemingly torn between two distinct audiences and styles.

In all honesty, I had to listen to this one several times to get my head around it prior to this review. Having had access to the album for almost a month now, it’s a “grower” that at first listen didn’t grab me in the way that I’d hoped it would. Perhaps a conscious effort to gain back some old-school listeners that abandoned them on LEAD SAILS while retaining the new ones they gained, CONGREGATION is a combination of the “old” Victory-era sound with the polish and budget of their first major-label effort.

Kicking off with “Stop! Before it’s too late and we’ve destroyed it all”, the dual-vocal attack is back with the screamo vibe hitting just before each chorus.  “Bleeding Is A Luxury” is driven by an intro riff remarkably similar to that of Anberlin’s recent hit “Feel Good Drag”, which makes me wonder how long we’ll have to wait for someone to create a mash-up. Despite the similarities, the song is solid and complimented by a back-end string arrangement that works well with the crunch. The title track drops in third, bringing more of the LEAD SAILS melody with breakdowns almost placed simply to say “Yes! We’re still Atreyu and can still SCREAM!”

While the musicianship and production is excellent throughout, the vocals quickly become the album’s weak spot as if they just didn’t know which way to go with it. When it works, it works well, and when it doesn’t you have the unmemorable “same ‘ol” that they moved away from in the first place. Surprisingly, one of the standout tracks is the closing number “Wait for You” – an epic rock ballad that would’ve been at home on LEAD SAILS. With a little push, it could easily become a cross-over hit on mainstream pop and rock radio.

CONGREGATION OF THE DAMNED is by no means a bad album, but the lack of direction prevents it from being a great album. This is one of those rare circumstances where an album works better as individual tracks than as a collective whole.

Rating: 3/5

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