Congregation Of The Damned

Written by: TL on 11/12/2009 00:04:53

Atreyu is a band with quite a status and a career to their name, however, if you're familiar with them (an old fan perhaps), you'll likely know that since they dropped the eyeliner and moved from Victory Records to Hollywood Records, their changes in style have seen them alienate oldschoolers like few bands can. Effectively, none of their old fans among our writers have shown any interest in reviewing their fifth album "Congregation Of The Damned". When I discovered however, that their material of late has been built around unashamed neo-classical 80's metal guitar riffs, I was more intrigued than I have ever been about the band, so for the first time I told the guys, "Hey, let me listen to that Atreyu album". Funny how things work out, huh?

So anyway, I obviously won't be drawing parallels to any old material, because none of that ever made any worthwhile impression on me, but yet, from catching the band at Taste Of Chaos and hearing the odd single or two, I did have some prior expectations. Expectations that "Congregations Of The Damned" more or less meet unfailingly. Indeed, guitarists Jacobs and Miguel do trade in the kind of balls-out-blazing neo-classical harmonized guitar wankery that is also currently peddled by many of the other bands from Atreyu's generation of metalcore, namely Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage. Indeed, they pack it around clean choruses and predictable enough song structures for them to lure out the the cries of "sell-out!" and "pop-metal" that I have the feeling have been following them around lately.

That's not really a problem in itself though (unless you're pissed they're doing that instead of.. whatever they used to do). No, there are a few other issues that come to mind quicker. First one is Alex Varkatzas. The band's frontman's only contribution to their music has always been screamed vocals of a mediocre, unvaried and wholly uninspiring quality. It seems however, that the band has realized that these are not enough to compliment their instrumentals, because on this record, drummer Dan Jacobs is given much more room to wield his much more impressive, classic metal croon. This is awesome, because his voice has got tonnes more attitude than the coughed up croaks of Varkatzas, and as the former takes center stage, the latter become much more bearable, as they simply provide contrast, leaving the making of an identity to the singing that actually has character to it. That's only one problem dealt with for Atreyu though, and the second one is much more important and much more defining for their album. It is that the songs here are simply soooo formulaic. Intro-riff/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo. That's it, every single time, and it seems like someone in the production room have certainly opted to keep things dumbed down for the arena-audiences, and that's a shame, because if Atreyu wanted to be an actual force to be reckoned with in the metal world, they'd know that as an awesome band, you have to be at your fans' throats, keeping them on the edge, rather than holding them off with simple, echoing, power-chorded verse structures.

That being said, if you accept the straight forwardness of the songs, there is stuff here that is easily enjoyable, and never quite as insultingly poor as many a hater would have you believe. Opener "Stop Before It's Too Late And We've Destroyed It All", certainly leaves its mark with a fist-pumping screamed chorus, and in other tracks like "Storm To Pass", "So Wrong" and "Bleeding Is A Luxury" - the latter proving again with its lyrics that this is not a treasure trove of intelligence we're dealing with - Dan J. manages to lend his voice to some above average choruses. Couple this with the mentioned blazing riffage, and I actually feel myself being swept along to a much larger degree than I would've thought. Unfortunately, the chorus writing has been somewhat less consistent than the guitar playing, so many songs aren't AS memorable, and the closing song "Wait For This" is a highly unnecessary ballad on a gun-blazing, aggressive, party metal album.

So what will it be then? Well, if you were to ask me; "That's all good and well, but wouldn't I be better served by listening to Trivium or Killswitch?", then I'd have to answer yes, indeed you would, for both are better and more rewarding experiences. However, if you were to ask the same question but about Avenged Sevenfold, I'd be forced to say no, because listening to Atreyu may be a simple metallers pleasure, but it does by no means feel as much like being butt-fucked by the stupid-stick as enduring A7X does. Don't get me wrong, you are having sex with the stupid stick, but it seems to be gentler, and you seem to be consenting y'know? There's also the outside chance that the people who wish Escape The Fate had written more "Guillotine"'s, could be on board here, and that's good, because from what I gather, Atreyu need new friends to replace their lost ones, despite the fact that their new style doesn't cast them as bad as many would claim.


Download: Storm To Pass, Bleeding Is A Luxury, Stop Before It's Too Late And We've Destroyed It All, So Wrong
For The Fans Of: Avenged Sevenfold, Escape The Fate, Killswitch Engage, Trivium

Release Date 03.11.2009
Hollywood Records

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