on July 22, 2014
I was really confused when I first heard that "lowborn" would be Anberlin's final album. I started listening to Anberlin when "Never Take Friendship Personal" came out in 2005. I was captivated by their melodic and poetic "Cities" in 2007, which is arguably the bands mangum opus. Their recent album, "Vital," was well received by critics and fans. They seemed like they were at the top of their game. So why are they going out now? Sure, it's better to go out on top, but it's hard to imagine them putting out music that is less than exemplary or becoming forgotten by fans. After listening to "lowborn" ten times I realized that the answer to my question lay within the album itself.
On their acoustic driven "Atonement," Christian reflects on his music career, not quite coming to grips with saying goodbye. Christian sings: "I've seen faces I may never see again / I've been places I never could have dreamt / I've touched hands with those who touched me / seen the marks, the skeleton keys / I found peace in a foreign atonement / I lost myself in the tides of a moment." He is saying he found peace in his music career, but that it became his identity to the point where he lost who he was. He loves where he has been as a musician, but in his heart he knows that he needs to move on in order to recover his identity. When I looked this song up on Google I discovered an interview that Christian said "I know there are going to be a lot of questions as to why we decided to break up and I explain it all in the song `Atonement." In my mind, that confirmed my logic. Perhaps it is a little off, but I have a feeling it is pretty close.
"lowborn" is the most somber and experimental album we have heard from Anberlin. The sound is largely based in a New Wave/80's Synth style of music that works exceptionally well. Songs like "Armageddon" and "Birds of Prey" are the two prime examples of this new sound. "Armageddon" is driven by a mid-tempo chunky guitar riff and a drum machine with an atmospheric synth in the background. Around the halfway mark, it gets a little heavier building on the emotional and engaging atmosphere. "Birds of Prey" is driven by swirling synths and a thick baseline. Atmospheric electric guitars and occasional revurb in the vocals add to the pensiveness of the song.
Unlike most Anberlin albums, there are minimal aggressive guitar riffs on "lowborn". In fact there are only three songs that rely on heavy-hitting electric guitars: "We Are Destroyer," "Velvet Colored Brick," and "Dissenter". The first two, "We Are Destroyer" and "Velvet Colored Brick," are the emotional rockers what we have come to know and love about Anberlin. The former has a strong sense of urgency and proves to be an album highlight. It is a roller coaster of a song with tempo changes, dynamic drums, groovy bass lines, a catchy synth, and heavy guitar riffs. The black sheep of the album, "Dissenter," features a techno-rock sound backed with screaming vocals from Christian.
Like most Anberlin albums the poetic lyrics are relatively dark. For example on "Birds of Prey" Christian sings: "Memories circle like birds of prey / Waiting for the right mind to drive insane / Don't look back there's nothing to see / Regret is nothing more than a reoccurring disease." Many of the songs on "lowborn" reflect on self-destructive behavior. This is particularly evident in lyrics like: "If all we are is just what we want / We are the destroyers" from "We Are Destroyers. On the more hopeful "Losing It All" Christian sings about holding on to your significant other through difficult times: "It's not losing it all, if we have each other". "Atonement" and "Harbinger" are lyrically the two 'farewell' songs off the album. Christian is still not quite ready to say farewell on the bittersweet "Harbinger," but regardless of this he encourages listeners that "We'll live together, together, forever".
This may not be the album that fans have come to expect from Anberlin, but it is clearly the album that they wanted to make. "lowborn" is brooding with emotion that not only grabs your attention, but makes you think just a little bit differently. Oftentimes such creative music sacrifices melody for experimentation. That is not the case here, as "lowborn" has both. After a few listens you will surely be singing along with this pensive yet urgent album. While not quite the masterpiece of "Cities," this album surely holds a high place in a strong discography. Thank you Anberlin. And Godspeed. 4.5/5 Stars.
on August 23, 2014
Anberlin for the past five years has been one of my favorite bands. It is always upsetting to see a band you really enjoy finally end. I own every album and was hoping for another great one in Lowborn. Unfortunately Anberlin's last is one of their most disappointing albums. As a whole, the Lowborn is decent record (hence the 3 stars) but attempts to try new styles on their final effort feel messy. Personally the vocals seem quieter compared to the rest of the band in Lowborn than in previous albums. I have listened to it my car, computer, and headphones and still get the same general sound. To me, it makes the album seem unpolished or unfinished.
The first half of the Lowborn starts off stronger with "We Are Destroyer." A harder rock song than most of Anberlin's past efforts. More attune to Vital & Dark is the Way, Light is a Place. As a fan of heavy metal, I enjoy the fast paced song with strong drums and guitars. With "Armageddon" & "Stranger Ways," the classic Anberlin returns with solid songs. The fourth song "Velvet Covered Black" feels like a hybrid of the styles of the first three songs. "Attonement" once again returns to the classic Anberlin with strong deep vocals, with solid sounds from the band and sound effects.
The second half is where the Lowborn begins to fall apart. "Bird of Prey" falters from the beginning with to much on the synthesized effects and strange vocals. The song to me feels rough and unfinished. By far the worst song on the album is "Dissenter." This horrible effort at something trying to approach heavy metal is a total failure. The vocals are terrible and guitar work feels misplaced. The drums sound great and the only thing worth noting. "Losing It All" is a traditional Anberlin song and it is the strongest of the second half of the Lowborn with "Hearing Voices" following not far behind. Finally finishing with "Harbinger," the song starts with an out of place sound effect. The lyrics of this song seem to be just repeating themselves throughout and is a very weak finish for their final album.
Lowborn is Anberlin going out with a whimper instead of a bang. An album more like Dark is the Way, Light is the Place would have been a more fitting end for the band. Lowborn is not an album that will draw in new Anberlin fans and want them to go and listen to their previous records. Is it a terrible record? No. Could have Lowborn been better? Yes, the potential is there but the execution was not. In the future, I hope to hear Anberlin back together making music, because again I am really disappointed in their final effort.
on July 22, 2014
Anberlin has been easily the best alternative rock band in the USA during the last several years--and remember that Coldplay and U2 are both in the United Kingdom, in case you're thinking "what?!" Now they're up to their seventh album in 10 years and have announced they are calling it quits. It's always sad when a great band does that. Especially when great music seems to be deteriorating.
Anberlin usually never sticks to one sound, but in the case of Lowborn, you may not find this to be the case. I personally found it to be quite similar to Vital in some ways--mainly because of the synthesizers. However, they are taken to the next level in this one.
The main thing about this album that *does* separate it from the others is that it's probably musically their most aggressive album since Never Take Friendship Personal. (As for the lyrics? Well, let's just say that Stephen Christian seems to be a little more ticked off than usual on some tracks.) Songs like "We Are Destroyer" and definitely "Dissenter" rank among their heaviest songs ever. However, they still manage to keep the ethereal feel that they had in Vital or even Dark Is the Way..., which is what makes songs like "Stranger Ways" and "Atonement" such great songs.
Anberlin has the amazing quality of an alternative rock band to get their songs stuck in your head quite easily, and Lowborn is no exception. Songs like "Armageddon," "Stranger Ways," "Atonement," "Losing It All" and "Hearing Voices" should testify to this. To be honest, there's not really any bad songs on this album--even if some Anberlin albums (namely Cities and Vital) have much better tracks overall.
The biggest complaint I have about this album is its length. For an Anberlin album, this is a pretty short record with only 10 tracks. It's sure to leave you wanting more by its end. Personally, considering that they've only had 10 tracks on one other album, I don't think it would have been too hard to fit one or even two more tracks on here--especially considering that this is their last album.
Anberlin has had a heck of a run, and I suppose it's good in a way that they're quitting while they're ahead--even though I doubt they could fall behind that easily. But it would not be fun either to see them devolve into something... not so good. Whatever the case, all bands have to come to an end eventually. (Unless they're the Rolling Stones. How old are those guys now? 150?) So, best of luck to them in their future lives and rest in peace Anberlin.
on July 26, 2014
Anberlin has been rockin' for a little over a decade, with Lowborn being their seventh and final album-- how do these ten tracks compare to previous records?
"We Are Destroyer" opens up in typical Anberlin fashion: a strong, fist-pumping rock song. "Armageddon", my personal favorite off the album, follows up with a slower pace that has a large atmospheric vibe to it. "Stranger Ways" continues with a more melancholic vulnerability and leads into another rock song, "Velvet Covered Brick". Next comes "Atonement" as a bittersweet ballad looking back at Anberlin's career and where they are now; "Birds of Prey", another slower song, has a sense of weariness akin to "Stranger Ways" earlier. Stephen Christian gets his scream on in "Dissenter" at track seven, screaming the lyrics for the majority of the song. "Losing It All" is a medium-paced track that feels right at home on a last album with lyrics like '...it's not losing it all, if we have each other / in the end it's all, in the end it's all that matters'. "Hearing Voice" feels again like traditional Anberlin rock, which to me has the flair of their album "Cities" in it. "Harbinger", the final song, is another appropriately slow song that ties up the feelings of ending with the chorus '...we'll live forever, forever, forever / I don't want to go now, but I've got to...".
Anberlin did something unique in the album-making process compared to how they did in the past-- rather than going to one producer for the whole album, they went to producers that they felt comfortable with for each track. While I think this is an interesting idea, ultimately I believe it brings down this record. The overall progression of this album feels a bit disjointed; it seems to lull in the middle, rise slightly, and then fade off in terms of energy. There is plenty of emotion in this album, but it comes off somewhat unfocused, close to the point of disinterest.
Additionally, I think the first two tracks on "Lowborn" set up the rest of the CD on an expectation it does not deliver. I would argue that "We Are Destroyer" is one of, it not THE best album openers they have done-- the guitars, electronic elements, vocals, etc. "Armageddon" is newer Anberlin territory that works extremely well. Although I do like "Stranger Ways", it feels awkwardly placed and stunts the atmosphere set up by the previous tracks; afterwards "Velvet Covered Brick", in my opinion, sounds too much like many other Anberlin rock songs that it does not offer anything memorable. "Birds of Prey" never truly emerges to climax from its dull tone, and "Dissenter" is so over the top that one may think it is overcompensation for the lower points of the album. As someone who really appreciated "Vital" and saw it as Anberlin breaking new ground musically, I am disappointed with what sounds like, mostly, a step backward. Again, this is my opinion, and I am not intending to offend anyone who has no problem with my observed problems-- all I am trying to say is, "Lowborn" lacks cohesiveness and a strong 'Anberlin-ic' rock presence.
Perhaps one producer could solve these issues. Perhaps experimenting with the album creation would have been better with an EP. Perhaps "Vital/Devotion" would have been a better combo for Anberlin's final music. OR, perhaps I am being overcritical and should be more caught up in the moment of a good band breaking up. I don't know-- you can ponder those things. However, in my final opinion, "Lowborn"'s strong parts are not strong enough to overlook the weaker parts, and unfortunately retires Anberlin on a lower note than their previous albums.
I am not sure if it is pure irony or a planned genius move but this has to be the absolute best album Anberlin has ever produced though it is their last. (My hope is they will be like those athletes who retire only to return a year or two later. Hey... a girl can dream! LOL ) What can I say that others have not said already? Not much... however, I'd like to mention the song "Hearing Voices" which for me is the most powerful song vocally, musically, and lyrically on the album. To hear Christian's voice passionately belting out lyrics like "Everyone wants to see Heaven but no one wants to say good-bye. Everyone wants to see Heaven but no one wants to die" and then a little later "Everyone wants to know God but their afraid of what they'll find. Everyone wants to know God but they want to live like He died" is nothing short of haunting. The song plays over and over in my mind. I honestly must listen to the song at least 20 times a day. I do not want to short change the rest of the album because as I stated it is by far the BEST album Anberlin has ever put out. There is not a song on the album that I do not like!
on December 12, 2014
I love, love, love Anberlin. I own nearly every album, and I am a flexible fan (not the kind who always says "Their first album was the best" and hardly likes anything after that). I really like them as a BAND, and I like how they've grown and changed while still liking their older stuff, too. I personally think "Devotion" is probably their best and most versatile body of work to date (If you have Vital but not Devotion, still get Devotion; there's enough other material on it to make it worth your while), but I love the older stuff, too. I can go on and on about reasons I like these guys.
All of that said, I am frustrated with this album. And, I don't think it was the songs. Most of them are great. I think it's the mastering. It is especially bad on "Armageddon". Whoever mixed this down mixed Steven Christian so far back in the mix as to make him often incomprehensible. I keep turning it up to hear what he's saying, but of course, that means the other things go up, too, and then the whole thing is excruciatingly loud, and I still can't hear him very well, which is sad, because he has one of the best voices ever known to rock/alternative music. I think they may have even cut the EQ on his voice at about 12khz (about where you can hear consonants clearly) which was also a huge mistake. The whole dynamic makes the vocals almost seem incidental to the album. There are moments where it almost feels like I'm listening an album that was made to be instrumental, or that the the person who mastered it didn't understand the band, or hadn't worked with them before, or thought the vocals should just be mixed like a third guitar. I don't know. I immediately went back and listened to other stuff by them (including other recent work) to compare them, and I was right, this one is different when it comes to how the vocals were mixed, and NOT in a good way. Maybe someone can enlighten me one why this is a good idea, (or anything other than a huge oversight), because I sure can't see it as anything other than that. I have listened to it all the way through probably 10 times now, and my opinion has not changed. I'm dying for remastered album.
on July 31, 2016
Anberlin is a tough band for me to review. I enjoy all their music and loved Cities, but sometimes their new stuff sounds too similar for me. My brain knows it's different and often good and enjoyable, but their style is so unique and pervasive that even good songs can become bland to me. Or maybe it's just that too many songs in a row by them wears out my ability to appreciate them. Either way, I do enjoy this album and bought it because it was their last one. Good if you like Anberlin's style, but there's just something about this band/album I can't put my finger on that bothers me, your mileage may vary.
on October 1, 2014
Insanely good album from a band I had never heard of until now. Yes, their previous albums are good, but not even close to the perfection that they attained in this, their final release. Every part of every song is a 10. Not only does this album not have a single bad tune on it, there isn't even a single second or superfluous moment on the entire record. Never does a part go on for just a bit too long, or not climax when it is supposed to. They nailed every aspect and even produced it themselves, which is an amazing feat unto itself.
Lowborn is on par with the best rock albums ever released-- many of which had at least a few under par tracks. Lowborn is mint from start to finish. It's filled with raw energy, passionate vocals, cutting melodic guitars and a freight train of bang-along drumming. It's a shame the industry is such a dump right now. If these guys had put an album like this out in the 90's, they would have been the biggest band on the planet.
Each song is amazing in its own rite. As musicians, they don't shoot for ego-inflating, guitar hero parts... just what they know will sound right with the song. The drummer is incredibly dynamic and, as a drummer myself, I can tell the guy could rip through ever more complex fills and intricate mega beats, but he does exactly what is called for by the song... sometimes overdubbing parts and bringing electronic beat elements in as well. What a textured and beautifully composed rock record... I don't know what else to say. These guys have blown my mind and I wish them the best in anything they decide to do in the future. I will be enjoying Lowborn for many years to come. Thanks guys!
on August 19, 2014
I don't understand why so many people like this album so much, and this is coming from a big Anberlin fan. I know it is sentimental because it is their "final" album, but it is also one of their weaker albums. It lacks energy, and the songs that are supposed to heavy are not. It's like the production was toned down or something. This album comes nowhere close to "Cities" or even "Blueprints." For me, the replay value is very minimal.
on July 25, 2014
Mix of last three albums. Well balanced! Roaring songs like Dissenter, We Are Destroyer to moody songs like Atonement, Armageddon. Definitely my favourite anberlin album. My favourite track is Stranger Ways and Losing It All.