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Album Review: Atreyu - 'Long Live'

8 September 2015 | 12:10 pm | Owen Morawitz
Originally Appeared In

Alive and kicking, Atreyu go back to their roots after a long absence.

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Almost two decades ago, a metalcore arms race was kicking off in the infamous Orange County scene on the US West Coast. Formidable acts like Avenged Sevenfold, Throwdown, Bleeding Through and Eighteen Visions came out of the local arena in the late 90’s to early 00’s, sharing stages (and sometimes even members) before moving on to conquer tour spots both nationally and internationally. It was in this early saturated environment that Atreyu rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential and well known metalcore acts of the 00’s.

Their second full-length record, 2004’s ‘The Curse’, sporting gothic imagery and, dare we say, vampire styled lyrics, uniquely balanced both the heavy and the heartbreak, and came at a time when both MySpace and kids wearing make-up at shows were trends blowing the fuck up, allowing Atreyu to reap the benefits. Capitalising on this success, the band immediately followed up with 2006’s ‘A Death-Grip On Yesterday’, which eclipsed its predecessor by hitting a Top 10 spot in the Billboard 200, and saw their singles featured on blockbuster film soundtracks. And with Atreyu seemingly at their peak, kicking music industry goals left, right and centre, everything started to go south. The boys decided to shoot for the moon with 2007’s ‘Lead Sails, Paper Anchor’, an ambitious yet arguably misplaced record, which suffered from too much radio-ready sheen, nu-metal vibes and an overload of stadium-rock tropes that fell flat with fans and critics alike. 2009’s ‘Congregation of The Damned’ did its best to perform damage control, but the band soon announced a break from touring in 2011, and members began exploring other projects. Which brings us to now, 2015: Year of the Band Comeback/Reunion, and Atreyu’s emphatic return to form with ‘Long Live’.

On first listen, what becomes immediately apparent is that time has served Atreyu well. This reviewer would argue that the biggest flaw in the band’s history is trying to release too much, too quickly, and that quality overall suffered as a result. The six year gap between records has allowed the group to reflect, regroup and consolidate their efforts. ‘Long Live’ draws from the band's best material in the Curse/Death-Grip years, and serves up a ferocious, rollicking metalcore record that sounds straight outta 2005. All the essential Atreyu elements are there: the yelped “Go!” lead vocals of Alex Varkatzas on the title track, along with bursts of double kick and huge, soaring choruses on ‘I Would Kill / Lie /Die (For You)’ and ‘Live To Labour’ courtesy of drummer and clean singer Brandon Saller, who can actually sing like a grown man, and doesn't sound like a dude with his nuts in a vice and a mouthful of honey, being Auto-tuned beyond all reasonable sanity.

The interplay of driving rhythms, crew-vocal chants, show-stealing solos and catchy, melodic leads featured on tracks like ‘Heartbeats and Flatlines’ and ‘Start To Break’ is actually what you expect to hear on an Atreyu record, and ‘A Bitter Broken Memory’ hits like a B-Side straight off ‘The Curse’. Clocking up at 47 minutes and 12 tracks, ‘Long Live’ gets in and out like a dirty one-night stand, and has enough tricks up its sleeve (maybe you do bang with your clothes on, how do I know?) to keep you interested. Tracks like the slow, ballad stomp of ‘Moments Before Dawn’, ‘Do You Know Who You Are’ with its Queen-esque handclap, and the playful, rocky dis-track ‘Brass Balls’ provide enough sonic reprieve and variation to hold your attention before getting right back to business. ‘Long Live’ is remarkably self-conscious in not overstaying its welcome, and caters directly to fans, by providing one of the most consistent entries in Atreyu’s back catalogue, showcasing all the elements the band has crafted and perfected in a career nearly stretching across two decades.

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Ignoring the fact that The Chariot also dropped a career-defining record called ‘Long Live’ not just five years ago, Atreyu’s effort at a ‘comeback’ record ticks all the boxes. The band has regressed to what they do best, while incorporating just enough mainstream rock experimentation to satisfy new listeners. ‘Long Live’ is both undeniably heavy and catchy, and likely to please any Atreyu fan. But this accessibility and predictability could also be their biggest flaw. It’s 2015, and a full decade since ‘The Curse’ dropped. Scene staples like Parkway Drive, The Ghost Inside and A Day To Remember have swept in behind metalcore purveyors like Atreyu, and continue to push the boundaries of what metalcore is and what it may become. Time will ultimately tell just how long Atreyu manage to keep living, and if fans jump back on for the ride.

1. Long Live

2. Live To Labour

3. I Would Kill / Lie / Die (For You)

4. Cut Off The Head

5. A Bitter Broken Memory

6. Do You Know Who You Are?

7. Revival (Interlude)

8. Heartbeats and Flatlines

9. Brass Balls

10. Moments Before Dawn

11. Start To Break

12. Reckless