Compared to others that come to mind, Atreyu’s return to action from hiatus was fairly understated. Sure, there was de rigueur social media teasing, but that was basically it. No flashy returns, no bells and whistles, just a message saying they would record together once again. That’s why it’s fitting that their comeback album should take on such a straightforward form. On Long Live, there’s none of the vampiric metalcore of The Curse, nor is there the indulgent, glam-soaked feel of Lead Sails Paper Anchor. Long Live is just thirteen tracks of thrash-tinged metalcore, and that can be both its blessing and its curse.
While most likely done for an album with a less polarising sound, it’s largely taken away Atreyu’s identity. When Atreyu were at their peak in the mid-2000s, there were plenty of bands who sounded like they do on Long Live, and of those bands, Atreyu certainly weren’t one of them. That’s another thing – with the tricks that metalcore’s leaders pull of today, there’s no way that Atreyu can go toe to toe with them with an album like this. That’s why Long Live does more damage than was initially intended – not only does it strip the band of their former originality, but it simultaneously sounds massively dated as a result. It wouldn’t be too much of a gripe if the songs were good, but sadly, Long Live has more than its fair share of filler. Live To Labor and Cut Off The Head are almost instantly forgettable with next to no standout features, while the messy Moments Before Dawn seems to be torn between being a soaring power ballad and a guttural metalcore track, and Do You Know Who You Are? plods along with a torrent of uninspired drum thuds. Sure, the odd misstep is inevitable, but for a band of Atreyu’s standing and reputation, the number on Long Live is disappointingly high.
When the band hit their stride, they’re more or less unstoppable. Drummer and clean vocalist Brandon Saller is once again the ace in the hole, pushing the choruses of the title track and Start To Break and making them sound utterly overblown in the best way possible. Meanwhile, I Would Lie / Kill / Die (For You) (the most Atreyu track title ever? Could possibly be) manages to maintain the viciously romantic / romantically vicious trade-off they’ve become so adept at, and Brass Balls injects some of the classic rock swagger of their mid-period material without disrupting the sound they’ve crafted too much. It’s areas like these that make the Atreyu comeback actually worthwhile, and show that they’ve still got some massive tunes in their locker. These better songs do take up a larger portion of the album but it’s dangerously close to being the other way around – Long Live sees Atreyu standing on a knife-edge of mediocrity, but just managing to edge themselves to safety.
So is Long Live the comeback record that’ll put Atreyu back to the top of the pile? Absolutely not, but in terms of what it actually is, it could’ve been much worse. Truthfully, it could’ve been a lot better too – it just kind of floats between good and bad, while edging its way ever so slightly to the former. If this truly is Atreyu back for good they’ve got an ample reason to make another album – as it stands now, they’ve got a fairly decent, if heavy-handed album to build on.
For fans of: Still Remains, Avenged Sevenfold, 36 Crazyfists
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Long Live’ by Atreyu is out now on Spinefarm Records.