Unforgettable Final Notes
Posted July 16, 2014
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
For fans of alternative rock, July 22 marks the end of an era.
In 2003, fresh Tooth & Nail signee Anberlin rocked the alternative scene with debut Blueprints for the Black Market, a project showcasing from the very beginning frontman Stephen Christian's formidable songwriting skills and a unique guitar sound that would captivate listeners through follow-ups Never Take Friendship Personal and Cities. A major record deal and several more innovative albums later, the band seemed to be at the top of their game after 2012's Vital. This only served to make the news of January 2014 even more stunning for fans: Anberlin's seventh studio album would be their last.
The five piece rock outfit is spending the year with a stint on the Vans Warped Tour, a final fall headlining world tour, and one last album released with the label who originally discovered them.
Their prolonged goodbye is being carried out on the band's terms rather than those of anyone else, which gave them breathing room for a unique creative process. In addition to choosing Tooth & Nail as the supporting label for the release, each band member chose their own producer to work with as they recorded their parts of the project.
Despite the bar being set nearly impossibly high by fan anticipation, with Lowborn Anberlin effortlessly delivers one of the best albums of their career. This project serves as both an impressive stand-alone and an emotionally satisfying farewell for fans.
Sonically, this project pulls together elements from all stages of the band's career. "Birds of Prey," a song built from the chilling warning "regret is nothing more than a disease," exhibits the electronic layering so essential to Dark Is The Way, Light is a Place and Vital. Harder music fans of Never Take Friendship Personal days are likely to latch onto "Dissenter," a blistering rocker with distorted, scratched vocals and Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney's guitar tones shredded raw. The moody contemplation of mortality and the supernatural on "Hearing Voices" will harken back to themes from Cities, providing a staggering spiritual punch with the lyric "Everyone wants to know God, but they're afraid of what they'll find. Everyone wants to know God, but they want to live like He died."
However, Lowborn is far from a replay of past efforts, nor does it lean on days gone by to allow the band to coast to their finish line. Anberlin continues to push the artistic envelope, such as on Muse-esque masterpiece "Armageddon." This stand-out track pulses with desperation, declaring "I can hurt like nobody else, trust me now, I can find a way to bleed."
Thematically, the songs explore what it is to be human, self-destructive and desperate, yet longing for and healed by connection with loved ones and with God. Opener "We Are Destroyer" uncovers the entitled, apathetic mindset humanity seems to fall into so quickly, drawing on signature driving guitars to lend urgency to its chorus. "Losing It All" is one of the album's softer offerings, though it's built on a steady beat backbone provided by drummer Nate Young. The song paints a touching picture of love in the face of risk and uncertainty, proclaiming "it's not losing it all if we have each other."
As is to be expected, the theme of the band's wrap is addressed as well, notably in "Atonement" and "Harbinger." Bittersweet "Atonement" is poignantly autobiographical, giving us insight into the personal process the band members faced in making the decision to step away from Anberlin.
"Harbinger" is the perfect goodbye, suitably serving as album closer. Anberlin has a tradition of placing deeply contemplative, often eerie tracks at the end of each album, and this is no exception. Melancholy guitars and piercing vocals are bound together to create an atmosphere of reflection, but also to support lyrics reassuring fans that Anberlin's songs and the experiences they formed with their listeners are immortal and will live on long after the last show is played.
With Lowborn, Anberlin has set the crown on an already illustrious career. There is not a single purposeless or filler track. Every musical moment is intentional and infused with earnesty. If there was a definitive description of Anberlin's creative identity, this album would be it. Lowborn is Anberlin at its finest, blending vivid songwriting, razor sharp guitar tones, haunting vocals, and atmospheric synth beds that would make any 80s rock outfit envious. The group is definitely successfully blazing out rather than fading away.
In final track "Harbinger," Stephen Christian slowly sings the heart wrenching lyrics "I don't want to go now, but I know I've got to. But you will remember me." The entire project that is Lowborn confirms his statement: Anberlin will be remembered. We may not want them to go either, but if they've got to, these are the perfect final notes to an unforgettable era.
Song to Download Now:
"Hearing Voices" (Get it on iTunes here.)
View All Music And Book Reviews By MaryNikkel_NRT | View MaryNikkel_NRT's Profile