I'm pretty sure if you were in middle or high school between 2003 and 2007, you religiously listened to your copies of Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses (2002) and The Curse (2004). Hell, admit it... "Bleeding Mascara" was your midi ringtone on your sidekick, wasn't it?
Well, put on your Vans and walk to the record store - Atreyu is back with their first album in three years. In Our Wake, which was released earlier this month on Spinefarm Records out of Finland, left me feeling confused as to whether or not I liked it.
Kicking off the album is the title track, which instrumentally is quite melodic. Matching the instruments perfectly, Alex Varkatzas and Brandon Sallers' vocals are clean and flow effortlessly over the guitars provided by Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel. Followed up by "House of Gold", the guitars and vocals remain clean and refined. This is not the growling and screaming that those who grew up on Atreyu are used to at all.
"The Time Is Now" takes a super weird turn. The beginning of the song is all Brandon Saller's drums and Varkatzas' vocals. Typically there would be no issue with this, but when it sounds like an Imagine Dragons knock off it's just fucking weird, and I didn't like it at all. In my opinion, this is a skip.
"Nothing Will Ever Change" finally gave me the punch in the face that I expect this band to have. There was more growl, the guitars were heavy, and I could actually kind of hear Marc McKnight's bass (finally). It's at this point listening to the record that I found myself extremely conflicted. The Curse was on repeat for a good chunk of my teenage years, and while I fully admit I fell out of keeping up with the band after Congregation of the Damned (2009), I didn't really expect to be turned off by the band itself. Maybe it was "The Time Is Now" just leaving a sour taste in my mouth, but I almost turned the album off...
When "Blind, Deaf & Dumb" started though, I was glad I didn't. Definitely taking on a hip hop feel mixed with the hardcore sound I was used to from the band, this song was one I found myself tossing on repeat for a little bit to really feel it and headbang a little bit to.
Then "Terrified" began and I wanted to turn it off again. I really, really want to know why these bands keep using loop tracks and synths so heavily in their music anymore. This shit is honestly why rock is a dying genre. I get that you are probably trying to probably grab on to the younger generations, but you're turning those of us who have been with you 15+ years off. Sorry, not sorry. I powered through though, because half assing the review isn't going to do any good... But for a band who claims to have invented metalcore, this was anything but.
I digress though... On to "Safety Pin". It's not... awful. Like, if Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy wrote something a little heavier than their norm. The guitar solos were the best part. In the mix, you can hear some screams, but they are drowned out by the "woah-ohs". I wish they would have mixed them more into the forefront of the song.
"Into the Open" sounded the closest to old school Atreyu than any other song on the record. The beginning sounds like a battle cry, and the harmonies between Saller and Varkatzas play so well off of each other that it puts others to shame. The drums on this were heavy and really showcase Saller's talent behind the kit. I wish the rest of the album held a candle to this track, or that they mirrored it even a little bit. It would make In Our Wake a hell of a lot easier to stomach.
Next up was "Paper Castle", which also gave us a glimpse into what Atreyu once was and what they were capable of. There was still a slight poppiness on this track, but it's buried in the mix enough so it's barely noticeable. Again though, I wish it had that extra bit of heaviness that it so lacks.
Almost done, thank goodness. "No Control" opens with the lyric "I think I've said enough", and at this point, I feel like I've heard enough... Just because you throw the occasional 'fuck' into your lyrics doesn't make it as badass as you think.
I skipped ahead to "Super Hero", featuring Aaron Gillespie (Underoath) and M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold). Now, let me just say that Gillespie has one of the most angelic and versatile voices in the hardcore scene. He takes over the first verse and chorus and his voice fits perfectly with the softer instrumentals. Then comes Shadows, who is equally talented as all of the other vocalists on this album. This song wraps up the album on a positive note, but again isn't very Atreyu-esque. This was a great Gillespie song to me. If he and Shadows want to continue to do duet stuff, I would be all for it. It was probably my favorite track on the album, sadly.
Maybe I am living in the past too much and carry too much of a bias against this record. Maybe the recent comments made by Vartkatzas leave a sour taste in my mouth due to how cocky they were. Maybe I've just outgrown the band. Either way you slice it, if you're someone who still buys full albums, I don't knock adding this one to your collection. If you're someone who conforms more to the way the industry is nowadays with downloading single tracks, give the album a once over and purchase as you see fit.
Overall, I'd give this a 2 out of 5 stars. Do with it what you will.
Album cover photo ©Atreyu - Spinefarm Records