Anberlin’s ‘Vital’ Signs Still Strong

Courtesy of Universal Republic Records

While most artists and bands have fallen into the deepest pools of the Guetta-Deadmau5-Avicii-Skrillex phenomenon of electronic dance music, Florida-based rock band Anberlin manages to test those waters and keep afloat with their sixth studio album, “Vital.”

Its opening track, “Self Starter,” featuring Nashville-based singer Julia Marie, immediately shows Anberlin’s new influence of the now-popular electronic style, something fresh compared to their 2010 album, “Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place.” With their lyrics keeping to the usual theme of life’s search for something greater, Anberlin ties the lyrics and hard guitar riffs with the smooth synth style.

However, the entire CD is not necessarily composed of just a keyboard and hard guitar riffs. “Little Tyrants,” “Desires” and “Orpheum” ring of older Anberlin songs, capturing the emotional prowess and sound of their fourth studio album “Cities.”

“Desires” and “Orpheum” are  throwbacks, completely revisiting the sounds they honed in two of previous albums “Blueprints for the Black Market” and “Never Take Friendship Personal” that made them skyrocket from a small group into a musical force.

“Intentions,” “Type Three” and “Modern Age” all draw directly on their new electronic influences. But “Intentions” doesn’t touch upon their newfound affinity for keyboards so much as it rides its sound for what it’s worth. “Intentions” sounds almost awkward; the keyboards do not flow smoothly along with the lyrics and rhythm, and almost sound close to the styling of a B-side soft rock song with overcooked tones of love and an annoying ’80s style keyboard.

On the flip side, “Type Three” is the perfect mix of their new influences and their classic sound. “Type Three” shows the real transitions of their music, touching on their old albums and going only one step further from the slight electronic sound of their previous album “Dark Is a Way, Light Is a Place” that it needed.

“Innocent” is a showcase of Christian’s vocal range, sounding like light and dream-like, a sharp contrast from their previously heavier songs on the album. For being in the very middle of the album, “Innocent” almost serves as a distraction to what is going on around it.

Anberlin had previously hit their stride with their 2010 hit “Cities,” but “Vital” struggles to reach that acclaim. “Vital” is ambitious, with a sound that goes well with the trend this year, but is hit or miss with its execution.

Maybe they’re trying to keep up with their major record label, Universal Republic, or maybe it’s a genuine new sound that Anberlin is trying to achieve. Through “Vital,” Anberlin makes a good effort. Their balance between old and new, with the more electronic songs catering to the new and the classic Anberlin style, still shines through.

Anberlin’s new album shows the progression that most musicians are trying to go through. As pretentious as it sounds, this critic misses the old Anberlin more.

Final Rating: 3.5/5