The fact that Atreyu’s Long Live did absolutely nothing for them brings into question how necessary they really are these days. It’s no secret that that era of metalcore hasn’t aged the greatest given recent output from Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold, and with what was supposed to be their grand comeback arriving with a whimper, and the preview singles from its follow-up being even less impressive, Atreyu seem to be heading in the same direction of wheel-spinning mediocrity as so many of their contemporaries. When the most apt initial comparison that can be made is the spineless, overproduced radio-rock that Bullet For My Valentine churned out on Gravity, In Our Wake could easily be seen as the album that fully seals its creators’ fate as irrelevant for the modern era.
Thankfully it’s not that bad, but if you’re expecting this to be any sort of return to form, or Atreyu calling back to bombastic, gothic-tinged sound of an album like Lead Sails Paper Anchor, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather, what this album comes across as most is a rampage through the last decade or so of metalcore, in which Atreyu proceed to smash everything together at various points and call it a day. The fact that it’s all a complete and utter mess isn’t even attempted to be hidden, but for as royally as Atreyu could’ve floundered right out of the gate, they actually manage to turn it around to a point for some real standout moments, high quality or otherwise. It’s certainly a more attractive prospect than what their last album ultimately became, and even though this is far from the ideal place for Atreyu to be in 2018, the fact that even some semblance of decency has been achieved is a good place to start.
Granted, it feels like that wouldn’t be the case if Brandon Saller wasn’t as much of the backbone of the band as he is; his drumming doesn’t particularly leap off the page at any particular juncture, but as far as cranking out skyscraping choruses that hit the exact beats when needed, the likes of House Of Gold and Into The Open are borderline unbeatable. It helps that that’s pretty much the only consistent factor, given Atreyu’s insistence on rubber-banding between styles with whether it works or not being completely up in the air for them. A track like Terrified may plumb some unfortunate depths as a twinkling electro-ballad, but the title track works better within the full package as an amped-up hard rock song, and for as questionable as it may seem at first, the approximation of rapcore and nu-metalcore on Blind, Deaf & Dumb brings onboard some innovation for this band that actually isn’t bad. Any hopes for great consistency can be pitched clean out the window, but for individual moments, In Our Wake’s peaks deserve some recognition.
Really, that sort of surface-level appreciation is what’s needed to get the most from this album, because as soon as you dig further, the cracks really begin to show. For one, John Feldmann’s production credit tends to be a red flag these days, and while a track like Safety Pin has a fairly impressive guitar presence for something with his name attached, the rounded, synthetic edges are still blatant, and it’s clearly been rounded out to fit nicely in its own box. To be fair, it’s not as noticeable all the time, with a track like Nothing Will Ever Change being a pretty faithful recreation of a classic Atreyu sound (as well as the days when Feldmann’s production wasn’t so reliant on watering everything down), but then there’s Terrified which embodies the upper extremities of what doesn’t work for a metal album, or the closer Super Hero, which clearly wants to serve as the grand finale in its strings, horns and featuring both Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows and Underøath’s Aaron Gillespie, but it’s a fairly mawkish effort which, with lyrics about being looked up to by their children, doesn’t make it any less cheesy. Indeed, the lyrics as a whole are a bit questionable, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with considering positivity on a larger scale and what’s left after death, there’s not much detail really anywhere and it dips uncomfortably close to derivative metalcore territory that this band are definitely better than. The melodramatic streak has always been there with Atreyu, but it’s been more interesting than this.
But even so, for as openly and obviously flawed as this album is, In Our Wake is hard to outright hate as opposed to appreciate for what it is. It certainly has its fair share of baffling decisions that easily could’ve been left out, but the fact that it’s far more interesting and diverse than Long Live could even aspire to be is enough to give it at least some time. Besides, it has moments that are the most driven that Atreyu have felt in a long time, and that definitely counts for something. At the end of the day though, while this is nothing even close to this band at their best, it feels like a step up regardless of how tentative or convoluted, and that can definitely be appreciated if nothing else.
For fans of: Bullet For My Valentine, blessthefall, Avenged Sevenfold
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘In Our Wake’ by Atreyu is released on 12th October on Search And Destroy Records.