It may be the case that, in trying to adhere to hardcore fans that have listened to Atreyu since their explosive debut and those who were disappointed with the pop – hooks and less scream orientated songs of 2007’s Lead Sails, Paper Anchor, Atreyu may have missed out.
Of course a band’s fan base is very important, the backbone of any good band is it’s vast and passionate fan base. But in trying to please all of those, the band have failed to craft the musical direction that they were beginning to master.
Congregation Of The Damned’s predecessor may have disappointed those who hung on to the dark and epic riffs, but for all of it’s misfortunes and weak moments, it also showed that the band had the ability to create music with flowing hooks and catchy choruses all the while seeming to maintain and hold on to their roots, with heavy and old-school moments presenting themselves on certain songs.
Congregation…definitely contains some of the latter merits, but it also seems at times to drudge along without leaving its mark. The album in most cases seems to follow the same format, never straying too far from the simplistic and is left without any un-predictable moments thrown in. The title track Congregation Of The Damned and Lonely are shining examples of this. With the typically commercial and lack-lustre choruses dragging the song through without any real ambition, they don’t give much to the overall album. The at times too frantic pace causes a lot of the songs to sound as if the band is trying to cram a lot of things into three and a half minutes without containing any of the epic-like choruses Atreyu is known for.
There are some good moments on the album. Stop! Before It’s Too Late And We’ve Destroyed It All leads off the album and actually contains one of the few memorable choruses in the album. It’s fast, partially heavy and a great opener with a killer guitar riff ripping into the song from the beginning.
You Were King, Now You’re Unconscious reveals an impressive intro with inventive musicianship, including an exceptionally heavy riff, with front man Alex Varkatzas and drummer Brandon Saller’s voices complimenting each other in the best way, just as they always have. Gallows also has a memorable intro along with some of tightest drumming and guitar work ever heard on an Atreyu track while So Wrong shows the passionate side of the band with a well -worked arrangement.
The lyrics on the album are as deep and cathartic as ever and the leading off single Storm To Pass shows this. It is a commercial song but holds some of the old-school Atreyu atmosphere and a fast and creative solo that fits into the song in a great way.
Ravenous gives a much heavier sound to the album with growling vocals and a very upbeat and dark feel to it. The other side of the coin is the song Wait For You. A song that hits you way out of left field and shows a more sensitive side to the Orange Country natives, with it’s slow pace that barely changes and soft vocals.
The album doesn’t work in the best way for the band. It is bound to receive mixed reactions from fans and critics alike - whether it’s for the lack of the heaviness, that the band has become known for or simply because most songs are nowhere near as good as Atreyu’s best. It may have some fans memorised, others though, will likely head for the hills clutching tightly to their copy of 2004’s The Curse.
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- Amy Parker