Anberlin - Lowborn
by Laura Clarke
Sadly, Anberlin’s journey is drawing to a close with the release of their final record, Lowborn. I have long admired this band for their originality of style. Stephen Christian’s soothing voice juxtaposed with often heavy musical notes has always presented a unique collaboration of paradoxical sounds. While the band’s more recent albums have widened their fan base to those who prefer softer melodies, enthusiasts of their earlier records have criticised this alteration, missing the more intense, fast-paced rock numbers. Yet Lowborn is a wonderful demonstration of both styles. Anberlin have undoubtedly satisfied most fans while delivering an album that is indisputably ‘them’ - a difficult achievement.
The whole album shares rapture-like tones which Miserable Visú – one of my favourite songs from New Surrender - was rich with. There is a definite feeling that the world will end (hence, Armageddon), but that there is light at the end of the bleak tunnel (hence, atonement). Perhaps this is a metaphor, an entertaining exaggeration of Anberlin’s disbandment, seeking to provide fans with comfort. Listened to in order, the album consists of a thrilling story that keeps the listener engaged. On shuffle, the record is unpredictable and fresh; no two songs sound the same. Anberlin have successfully avoided the trap of tediousness and I couldn’t be happier for them.
We Are Destroyer sounds uncannily like the band’s earlier work, being reminiscent of heavier classics such as Ready Fuels and The Feel Good Drag. However, the song’s chorus lacks the engaging melody of the aforementioned tracks. Perhaps this is because the guitar in We Are Destroyer is so loud that it masks Stephen Christian’s smooth voice. This voice was often previously put into the foreground, conveniently filing down the rough edges of heavier numbers and furnishing a more pleasant listening experience. That being said, if you’re partial to heavy metal and well-executed guitar riffs, this opening number is unlikely to disappoint.
Similarly, Dissenter is too heavy for my taste – I dislike yelling. In my opinion there are cleverer, less obvious ways of expressing emotion through music. Unfortunately, the peaceful interlude a third of the way through is short-lived. But yet again, if heavy music is your thing then you might love it.
Armageddon is ridiculously cool, not to mention refreshingly distinct from its predecessor, We Are Destroyer. The track opens with an electrified drum beat and is shortly accompanied by the subtle strings of an electric guitar. The lyrics are equally effective and thrilling, describing a Game of Thrones-like pursuit of power ultimately resulting in destruction:
No one else to blame for this World War Three, I’ve built this city just to bring it to its knees.
Atonement pays homage to where Anberlin are now – the song appeared to be written about the band’s journey; each member undoubtedly thankful for the experiences it resulted in.
I’ve been places I never could have dreamt, I touched hands with those who touched me… I lost myself in the tides of a moment, But my heart’s where I’m going.
The style resembles the softer songs to be found in their last record, Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place. Anberlin’s exceptional overlaying of various instruments is clearly demonstrated here. While this effect can never rival the likes of Fin and Unwinding Cable Car, it is certainly lovely to listen to.
Regrettably, there are a few lifeless notes to this record. Harbinger is quite boring, as is Bird of Prey. The latter becomes more interesting in the last minute with the addition of another layer of electric guitar and heavier drums. Yet the lyrics remain repetitive - “It all ends the same,” was taken a bit too literally.
Lyrically, Hearing Voices is the best track on the album, with powerful lines such as “Fears are born inside,” and “Can’t stand a ghost when a ghost’s not dead’. Despite the band’s rejection of the classification of Christian Rock, the lyrics are clearly influenced by lead singer, Stephen’s, faith:
Everyone wants to see heaven but no one wants to say goodbye, Everyone wants to see heaven but no one wants to die… 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.
These existential musings are poignant to believers and atheists alike - I’m pleased that the band took such a bold step with the lyrics here. The song’s tuneful melody lifts the track to a higher level, understandably adding to its early status as a fan favourite.
All-in-all, Anberlin have left a lasting final impression on me with this record. I love the way that the album has a distinct lyrical audacity, yet it remains true to their identifiable style of music. The curtain closes with an earnest round of applause.