American metalcore has been tossed around for a while now since its formation. So out of the wide range of bands that fall into this genre, what band has proven themselves worthy enough of being known as this genre? One band that pops into my head is a small town act straight out of Orange County, California, known simply as Atreyu. Having been around for 11 years and counting – vocalist/lyricist Alex Varkatzas along with guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel, bassist Marc McKnight and drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller, the band went from being originally called “Retribution” to Atreyu – named after the character from the fantasy book/movie The Neverending Story.
They then released four LP’s Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, The Curse, A Death-Grip on Yesterday, and Lead Sails Paper Anchor, each of which sold more than 200,000 copies to date. Since the numerous LP releases, the band, like so many before them and surrounding them, have gone off on numerous tours ranging from the U.S. to the U.K. right back to their hometown, Atreyu has gotten their name and themselves around one way or another. But once that’s all been said and done more than just once, what is left to do? Well create new material of course, which they’ve recently done – calling it Congregation of the Damned. The members had wanted to continue to develop musically but also wanted to return to the more aggressive side that was involved within their first creations.
For instance, through the 13 songs offered, Atreyu covers a variety of ground that includes heavy raw emotion found all over this album – “Stop! Before It’s Too Late” and “We’ve Destroyed it All,” being an enraged raw driven tune, whereas a more anthemic metal tune “Carried Away,” carries the music down a much matured route by taking the music down a note just a tad, while the more brutal side-effects of cinematic rock ballad, “You Were the King Now You’re Unconscious,” takes Atreyu’s music ability to a higher standard. At this same time, they’re making various nods to the music they grew up on, still in love with it all going down the lines of sounding a lot like Black Flag, down to Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motley Crue. While there is no shortage of euphoric sing-along melodies, the songs are more ferocious than anything since 2004’s “The Curse”.
The subject matter used here is equally intense, vocalist Varktazas explains, “The music is heavier and so I was able to write darker lyrics.” “There’s personal shit on there: self-doubt, self-loathing. Bands who sing about happy things have their place, and I’m not singing about dark things to promote them, I’m singing about them so I don’t go insane. It’s pure catharsis. I make music so I don’t go crazy.” In close, having him find himself within a darker environment, or “territory” when it comes to “Storm To Pass,” creates a song that has not only one meaning but a double-meaning behind it. “The storm as being the form of depression, while the storm is considered the war – You can feel that depression coming on, you can see yourself doing fucked up things but you can’t stop it,” says Varktazas. “I grew up watching the first Iraq war and the invasion of various countries and how the whole thing became one giant storm.”
As Atreyu’s follow-up to their previous release, this album is clearly nothing more, and nothing less than its title claims it to be -the Congregation of the Damned.