Christian rock has developed a bad rap over the years. You can’t help but hear the religious undertones of salvation, something that, as a self-affirmed atheist, can distract from the full experience of the music. (Let’s face it, any musical genre that can include Creed is bound to get some judgment.) Anberlin, thankfully, has not fallen into this trap with their latest offering, Vital, in part because the band keeps their faith separate from their music.
“Sleepless” is a strong opening track, but it feels as if the vocals and the tempo don’t quite add up to one another. “Other Side” dials back a little, which is a bit of a disappointment after the momentum gained by the previous track, “Little Tyrants”, that has an energy (not to mention a killer guitar solo) that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Guns ‘n’ Roses album. “Intentions” has a distinctly 80s feel about it, with another spectacular instrumental sandwiched between the synthesized verses. “Innocent” manages to unfortunately lose your interest, but it is more than made up for with “Desires”. “Type Three” is the only truly weak link, an anaemic track that doesn’t fit with the overall rocking album. Immediately afterward, they hit the nail on the head with “Orpheum”: a perfect blend of emotion and hard-hitting instruments, and Stephen Christian’s voice is, for once, the ideal accompaniment.
It’s clear that the band is technically gifted in all departments, yet I can’t help but feel that Christian’s voice is mismatched somehow. It almost seems too clean and polished for an otherwise powerhouse of a rock album.