Anberlin have been playing rock & roll, under their current guise, since about 2002. Before Anberlin was SaGoh 24/7, which realeased two LP’s. Anberlin have six LP’s under their belt, not including their earlier work as SaGoah 24/7 and have reached considerable critical acclaim. Currently, the band is signed to Tooth and Nail records, which means they rub shoulders with newbies like Family Force 5 and Hawk Nelson and old pros like Starflyer 59 and MxPx. The Tooth and Nail roster is one of the best managed in the alt-Christian recording world. And Anberlin have no doubt benefited from the good company.
Their latest record, Dark Is The Way, Light Is The Path, sees the band taking on new leadership in the studio in the form of Brendan O’Brien, whose work has aided such rock luminaries as Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. Anberlin lead Stephen Christian is pretty fond of the new songs saying, “I feel like this is the first complete album we’ve ever done. The other ones had great songs, but this one, I feel like, is the most cohesive record we have ever assembled.” And from opener “We Owe This To Ourselves” right through to album closer “Depraved”, the record’s gravity grows quickly in confirmation.
Christian hits hard on his vocals throughout, as he does on all of his records, which is no easy task. Just ask genre-mates MUTEMATH. What’s uniquely impressive with Christian’s albums, however, is how he pierces with a purpose. Dark Is The Way sees the incendiary “To The Wolves” relieved by airy slowjam “Down”, which helps us understand Christian’s insistence on the stylistic cohesiveness of the record. Christian feels pretty attached to the latter track, “‘Down’ is the one that I go back to. [It’s] like heart-on-the-sleeve, just absolutely baring all that’s left of my soul onto a tape, and then put out on a CD.” Just a few listens reveal the half confession, half plea that pushes the track forward. It ends up being a strong bookend to a suite of well crafted, if perhaps less wrought, songs.
In a recent Relevant interview, Alyce Gillian asks Christian to distill the main thing he’s learned as a member of Anberlin over the past 8 years, to which he replies, “That all is never lost. Tomorrow is going to be much better.” If we can use Anberlin’s career as any sort of litmus test, I’d be inclined to take Christian at his word.
- John Scherer