Atreyu – ‘Baptize’

By Dave Stewart

If you were a fan of early noughties metalcore and emo, then Atreyu is likely a very familiar name. Integral in the genre’s surge in popularity and massively adored and respected among both fans and peers, the band have been continuously grinding ever since their return from hiatus back in 2014.

Well established, accomplished, and tightly knit as they may be, their new album ‘Baptize’ acts as the turning over of a new leaf and marks the beginning of a new era for the band. Their first album without original vocalist Alex Varkatzas, this record sees them play around with their formula once again to concoct a bigger, bolder sounding beast. Does it work? Sort of…

The album gets right to making the new direction crystal clear, with the gospel-esque vibes of album intro ‘Strange Powers Of Prophecy’ leading into the gigantic riff-work of title track ‘Baptize’. Fast-paced, brimming with suspense and boasting one of the catchiest choruses of their entire catalogue, it’s the perfect high-octane introduction that demonstrates now-front man Brandon Saller as a more than capable conductor.

The tracks that follow keep the momentum going, with the anthemic ‘Save Us’ and the furious and aggressive ‘Underrated’ ensuring the adrenaline continues to course, swirling with more huge riffs, insatiable choruses and more hooks than an angler’s tackle box. The direction they’re heading in is definitely more suited to bigger spaces, slowly stepping away from the technical intricacies of their metalcore roots and gravitating towards the theatrical weight of the heavier end of the rock spectrum.

Atreyu have never been strangers to an enormous chorus, and they’ve channelled into a whole other consciousness on this record. Every chorus throughout its fifteen tracks is like a siren song, every melody that leaves Saller’s mouth beckoning you deeper and deeper into their waters. McKnight’s vocals are great throughout the record too, providing desperate, seething shrieks that exquisitely juxtapose the beauty in the clean sections. After spending years toying with the balance of aggression and melody within the vocals, it seems they’ve found a great balance once again, but there’s just something lacking.

The record gets off to a great start, but momentum is what this record appears to lack in the later tracks. Don’t think that there aren’t other big moments on the record, though, because there are plenty. ‘Weed’ is a no holds barred nostalgia trip, ‘Catastrophe’ is a menacing and seriously catchy tornado of riffs, ‘Sabotage Me’ is a nu-metal-tinged mammoth that provides another example of their stunning chorus abilities, and the haunting ‘Oblivion’ is gigantic, with Trivium’s Matt Heafy casting a dark and mystical shadow over proceedings. Despite these more impressive moments, though, a lot of this album just doesn’t connect.

The songs aren’t boring or poor by any means, but so many seem to simply pass by. Even the tracks with guest spots are pretty underwhelming, with Jacoby Shaddix injecting his unmistakable and much needed energy into ‘Untouchable’ and Travis Barker lending his talents to closing number ‘Warrior’ without really standing out or ingraining themselves into memory.

Musically, ‘Baptize’ harks back to Atreyu’s earlier days while also introducing new characteristics to their genetics, creating what is the most hook-laden, catchy work of their career by far. Despite this, the attention to detail that’s been put into the catchiness really takes away from the adrenaline and aggression that has always made Atreyu such an exciting band, and the impact from the punch this record delivers wears off too quickly. Fans of the band’s whole catalogue will find a little bit of every record dotted throughout, sprinkled with new ideas and influences as they continue to evolve, but this evolution doesn’t quite reignite the flame that they once had furiously blazing.

If you’re into post-metalcore, the more aggressive end of hard rock, and dig the likes of Underoath, Beartooth, Silverstein, and The Used, this album will tickle you in all the right places. Unfortunately, though, if you’re a fan of Atreyu, this album might not reel you in as you might hope. It’s catchy, ballsy, and fun for the most part, but there’s just something missing.


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