In the great mixing pot of early-2000s heavy music emerged Atreyu, borrowing from metal, punk, and even pop for a sound that was both unyieldingly aggressive and instantly infectious. The outfit has long fit best into the “metalcore” box, despite having a number of tendencies that settle their sound comfortably in the realm of alternative rock. Having fit in with bands from Linkin Park to Slipknot, Atreyu has maintained a steady course in developing their sound as much as they have fought to keep it consistent. Latest album “Baptize” is no exception, bringing the heat with a number of electrifying anthems certain to please both longtime fans and newcomers alike with a sound that is heavier than ever.
“Baptize” is the first taste of Atreyu following the departure of lead vocalist Alex Varkatzas in late 2020. Vocal duties have been taken over by Brandon Saller, who had been splitting clean vocals with Varkatzas since “A Death Grip On Yesterday” while simultaneously manning the drums. Bassist Marc McKnight, who has been with the band since 2004, has stepped in for harsh vocals, leaving “Baptize” firmly in the practiced hands of longtime Atreyu members. On “Baptize,” drumming has been passed to Kyle Rosa who more than fills the shoes Saller left. Rosa has seamlessly adapted to Atreyu’s frenetic style, delivering a splendid thunder on the demanding tracks “Save Us” and “Weed.” Despite the shuffle of members and duties in the band, the relatively consistent lineup that has carried Atreyu through two decades of music continues to deliver. The chemistry between bandmates is just as strong as ever, including seamless transitions from clean to harsh vocals, blistering riffs that soak up the spotlight, and an unstoppable forward momentum that ties the album together.
As summer begins to roll in, “Baptize” is the perfect collection of loud rock anthems to blast on the speakers as the sun beats down. While it’s impossible to sort the songs on “Baptize” into neat boxes, there is a standout category of absolutely massive songs that build on explosive riffs, mighty choruses, and an unstoppable rhythm section. Both “Save Us” and ”Catastrophe” roar out of the gate with guitars blazing, and the latter features the howl of harsh vocals as a strong follow-up punch to the colossal efforts of the instrumentalists. Closing track “Warrior” is breathtaking, anthemic and emotional, with cacophonous drums contributed by Travis Barker to light the way after an album packed full of melancholy and anguish. Complete with cheering and a crisp drum line to round out an already ecstatic atmosphere, “Warrior” is a step headfirst into a hometown football game as much as it is a beacon of hope and a reminder to persevere.
“Baptize” brings a good variety to the table between straightforward rockers and more emotionally complex efforts. It’s easy to shy away from tracks as on-the-nose as “Fucked Up,” but the lack of depth is soon replaced by the urge to sing along in agreement to the irrefutable “I think that we’re all just a little more fucked than we want to let on.” This straightforward attitude is one of the consistent threads throughout Atreyu’s discography, serving up years of instant hits, and “Baptize” is no exception to this formula for success. “Weed” follows in these footsteps, coupling speed with a melody that has proven to be a certain earworm.
Despite packing in a variety of emotion and stylistic variety in the confines of “Baptize,” this latest incarnation of Atreyu does leave certain elements wanting. Only one track on the album comes close to the four-minute mark, with most resting comfortably under three minutes long. This explosive, single-driven sound-bite structure works well for high-octane thrillers like “Baptize,” which are sure to awe on the big stage. But for the more emotional throes of “Sabotage Me” and “Warrior,” it feels as though their conclusions are premature to the message crafted. “Sabotage Me” in particular is the album’s deepest dive into a more cinematic atmosphere, beautifully balancing female vocals over an ethereal sonic backdrop, but the relatively abrupt ending leaves a chasm in its wake. Atreyu’s style has always lent itself well to shorter tracks, particularly those that lean into the punk vein, but earlier albums weren’t so hesitant in making more exploratory ventures. Similarly, the placement of the more somber “Dead Weight” slows down the climatic build that “Weed” had so skillfully mounted. Even where the tempo of “Dead Weight” builds again, the energy from “Weed” has already dissipated and is not recovered until the later foray of “Fucked Up.”
There is no question that Atreyu has maintained all of the elements that have long contributed to their success, but there are certainly points where “Baptize” misses the mark on maximizing the emotional potential of their expression, something that particularly stands out when compared to earlier efforts such as “Lead Sails Paper Anchor.” Saller has long proven his ability to give an authentic and emotional vocal performance, further bolstered by the beauty of “Stay.” Easing off the gas just a bit and allowing Saller to truly blossom in the spotlight would have gone a long way to elevating the impact and ambition of “Baptize” to even greater heights. The band has long been evolving away from anything that would associate them with emo or similar scenes, but this climb towards even heavier music does not have to come at the cost of abandoning their soul.
If you’re looking for a thrilling album to brighten your summer, look no further than the impassioned fire of “Baptize.” A strong contribution to an already titanic discography, this album is proof that Atreyu is not only adaptable, but as inventive and driven to create as ever. Consistent with their legacy and aggressive on every front, the explosive variety pulls no punches as “Baptize” makes its mark. Elevated by guest musicians and the perseverance of the core lineup, one can only be excited to see where Atreyu aims in the future.
Release Date: June 4th, 2021
- Dan Jacobs / Guitar
- Brandon Saller / Vocals, Keyboard
- Travis Miguel / Guitar
- Marc McKnight / Bass, Vocals
- Kyle Rosa / Drums
Roaring into the spotlight with an indomitable spirit and newly shuffled lineup in tow, Atreyu's "Baptize" is the perfect album of fire and metallic thunder to ring in the summer.