Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Release Date: June 4, 2021
Genre: Alternative Metal, Rock
Label: Spinefarm Records
The California-based metal heavyweights Atreyu have returned with their hard-hitting eighth studio album, Baptize, which ushers in a new chapter for the band. Baptize is Atreyu's first album not to feature the band's original vocalist Alex Varkatzas. Additionally, it's the first album to see Brandon Saller move away from drum duties entirely to become the band's full-time clean singing vocalist, a move that was influenced by the career of Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame. With bassist Marc McKnight taking over screaming vocal duties from Varkatzas. Leading the band down a path to recruit a brand new drummer and officially filling the position is newcomer Kyle Rosa (Dead American, Thieves & Liars, Hell Or Highwater). Once again, Atreyu collaborated with music producer and Goldfinger vocalist/guitarist John Feldmann on their eighth album. The band formed in 1999 as a melodic hardcore band and continued to grow musically to become one of the pioneers of metalcore by maturing their sound to include infectious clean singing sections. Over the years, Atreyu has continued to evolve and hone their craft. When the band got back together after three years broken up in 2014, the band returned with their 2015 released album, Long Live. With the sixth album, Atreyu began to incorporate alternative metal elements around their solidified metalcore sound. These elements grew further into their 2018 album, In Our Wake, and have now shaped the entirety of their brand new full-length album, Baptize, with the most ambitious Atreyu record to date.
Beginning with the stripped-back vocal harmonized intro track, "Strange Powers of Prophecy," the album flashes right into the title track in a breeze. Not allowing anything to hold them back, the title track "Baptize" is heavy at its core with hard-hitting riffs and pounding drums but sees the incorporation of elements of pop music into the band's repertoire. It's the same Atreyu you may have grown accustomed to, but with a newfound maturity. The third track on the album is the lead single, "Save Us." It's one of the heavier tracks featured on the album and originally was one of several tracks included on Baptize that were written while Varkatzas was still an active member of the band. The band's members chose to keep these tracks because they were all super proud of what they wrote together, and Saller and McKnight laid their voices on the tracks despite Varkatzas' departure. Lyrically, "Save Us" is a mirror to the world of this ominous moment in time as a society divided. To the band, it's a call to action to light a fire within themselves -and yourselves. Society can begin to make great change, but only after if we look inside ourselves first. In my opinion, the following track, "Underrated," which is a recent single off Baptize, is the heaviest musically within the album's fifteen tracks and lyrically tackles the band's rise to the top over the last twenty years. Atreyu was never handed a golden ticket to the top of the industry. The band had to work themselves straight to the bone continually during the years as an active band to get to where they are now, both as songwriters and in popularity. "Broken Again" displays Atreyu's more rock side with a step down from what the band offers on the first few tracks with the undeniable anthemic clean singing sections that Atreyu has always been known for. This is heard again on a few other songs like "Weed," "Dead Weight," "Sabotage Me," "No Matter What," and "Stay." The band gets chaotic again with the single "Catastrophe." Featuring classic Atreyu song structuring that includes screaming, chugging guitars, and anthemic singing sections. Lyrically, "Catastrophe" takes an imaginative approach. The band describes the feelings they had during the global pandemic and what they believe the rest of the world was feeling too. To the members -and I can say confidently for many others- the world felt like it was falling apart around them. Nothing was definite this past year, with stress and darkness coming from every corner, but for them, living through it all with someone they love made this year more tolerable than it would've been without that someone.
One thing Atreyu isn't new to is song features, having the likes of Death by Stereo's Efrem Schultz, Buckcherry's Josh Todd, Underoath's Aaron Gillespie, and Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows on tracks over the years. However, Baptize marks the most on one album. The first feature comes on the album's eleventh track, "Untouchable." The band continues to deliver banger after banger on the album, and this particular number features Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix. This track stays true to Atreyu, and Jacoby furthers the band's songwriting without taking the song to the "common Atreyu heavy." The next feature comes in on track thirteen and sees Trivium vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy providing his talents to the song "Oblivion." The album's last feature is not a vocalist like the previous two, and it's no other than Blink-182's Travis Barker on the album's final track, "Warrior." Barker's signature drumming style can be heard throughout in all its glory. The tune itself was the album's second single and is a song about persistence and just never giving up on yourself. The band hopes "Warrior" can be the puzzle piece that helps people realize that humans all have the capacity for greatness. This greatness can exist in the shadows and lives buried under negativity, trauma, or anxiety.
While Baptize marks a new chapter for the band with a shift in their members and their place in the band, it also marks a new chapter for the band's songwriting. Atreyu has stated in the past that each of their albums is a time capsule of where they are at the time of the making of their songs. Now, once again, while no longer letting any genre hold their creativity back, Atreyu got the most ambitious they ever have by mixing their metal sound with elements found in various rock, pop, and electronic genres. While incorporating these new elements into their sound, the band still created one of their heaviest albums. Where the music isn't heavy sonically, Atreyu makes up for it the album's dark, honest, and highly relatable lyrics. The lyrics cover a wide-ranging list of topics like mental health, the global pandemic, trauma, persistence, and loss, to name a few. As a friend texted me back in March with the release of the dual single release of "Warrior" and "Underrated," he said, "These [two] new Atreyu songs are just their catchy choruses but over the course of the entire songs!" To sum it up, he is precise for the most part. While Baptize has its heavy moments, there is a certain softer side that still prominently features irresistible melodies and choruses that will resonate in the ears and brains of anyone who listens to the album, resulting in multiple replays of Baptize. Be sure to pre-save or purchase Atreyu's Baptize before its release on June 4th.