Anberlin are a band that have never quite got themselves over the line, even though they have a huge and growing fanbase. The push they’ve received into the mainstream – through radio airplay, consistent media attention – would make you believe they are a much more successful band than they really are, yet their music and appeal has often been more of a lingering thud than a loud conceivable bang.
It is not to say they are not competent, far from it, they’re actually really good at what they do: over the top alternative rock rooted in punk aesthetics. Yet it’s all just very forgettable. Perhaps it didn’t help that the first song that caught initial attention was ‘Foreign Language’. For anyone who has heard this track, they can attest to it being one of the single worst songs you’ll hear from this genre. Dreadful lyrics compounded by some of the most hilariously misplaced harmonies (“do do do do do” just gets more and more awful every time you hear it) left a distinctively sour taste.
They did however, get much better, and through the sea of full-lengths that followed there was a huge improvement in their musical steadiness. Essentially they wrote better songs peaking in mainstream appeal with ‘New Surrender’, yet the lingering unidentified nature of their songs continued to plague them. So comes ‘Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place’, their next raid into the faceless nature of radio friendly alternative rock, and surprisingly there are a few decent results. Buoyed by the impressively catchy single ‘Impossible’ and the U2-esque structures of ‘Take Me (As You Found Me)’, ‘Dark Is The Wayâ€¦’ proves that sometimes ordinary isn’t all that bad. Tempos are mixed (‘Pray Tell’), melodies tightened (‘You Belong Here’), and the overall pace of the album gives listeners something to come back to.
Saosin and Cirva Survive may perhaps do this with a bit more intensity, but you can’t fault Anberlin for being who they are. Consistency has been a predicament and while they’re really finding solid ground with their latest release, it is a conspicuously safe album, and one of the worst things that a band can do is release something that is safe, instead of experimenting with new things. This may appease their most die-hard fans, but to anyone who hasn’t listened to them before then they come across as just another band in a genre that is begging for something new.
Written by Rhys Milsom