Anberlin – Vital

By Carter Fraser on October-15-2012 | Filed under Movie Review Essay.

Anberlin – Vital
Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/54
4.6 (27 votes)

Artist: Anberlin (iTunes) (Spotify) (Stream)
Title: Vital
Label: Universal Republic
Release Date: 10/16/12
Revewier: Carter Fraser


  1. Self-Starter
  2. Little Tyrants
  3. Other Side
  4. Someone Anyone
  5. Intentions
  6. Innocent
  7. Desires
  8. Type Three
  9. Orpheum
  10. Modern Age
  11. God, Drugs & Sex

Almost amusingly, Vital is the exact opposite of what Anberlin fans were hoping for with the quintet’s sixth LP. Not in terms of quality, but in personality. If Anberlin’s return to producer Aaron Sprinkle gave you hopes for another introspective, diligently crafted Cities, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Vital is far from that, trading pained-slow burners like “Dismantle. Repair.” for a barrage of hard-hitting rockers like “Godspeed.” But I implore you to not be disappointed; Vital is as accomplished as anything Anberlin have released to date, simply in another direction.

For a band whose thoughts on their own accomplishments inspire many itchy heads, lead vocalist Stephen Christian’s recent interview with CBS Local KROQ rings true:

          “We had just got done working with two of the most incredible producers in rock music today with Neil Avron
          (New Surrender) and Brendan O’Brien (Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place) on our two previous albums,”           
          Christian elaborated. “If it wasn’t for the two of them, we wouldn’t have gone back to Aaron. But we learned so
          much from their production styles and techniques. There’s so much confidence instilled in us from working 
          with them that gave us the liberty to go back with Aaron Sprinkle.”

Vital then is as if Anberlin wrote another follow up to Never Take Friendship Personal, but this time for an audience much larger than they had then. It’s as “Anberlin” as Anberlin have ever been, but with an understanding of how to properly create an album “for the masses.” Their achievement in doing both of these things is perhaps even more impressive than Vital itself.

Ironically, Vital is the album that Anberlin tried and failed to craft with Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place. The songwriting (which I would argue noticeably shifted after New Surrender) remains the same, but Vital has the aggression that Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place lacked. To find this aggression, Anberlin took cues from their past; not from their heralded opus Cities, but from Blueprints for the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal. Songs like “Little Tyrants” bring back the snarling guitars that haven’t been heard since their debut almost a decade ago, but with more confidence than ever before. Vital is certainly Anberlin’s heaviest album to date. By far their heaviest even, to the point that even RED seems a legitimate comparison. The well-advertised M83 influences play out to something closer to Muse than the French musician, evident in the cinematic opening pianos of “Orpheum” and the blazing guitars of “Desires,” which bear strong resemblance to those of Muse’s “Stockholm Syndrome.” But fear not, the Anberlution is more than fresh enough to satisfy all but the most cynical of listeners.

The sole shortcoming of Vital is another shared characteristic with Muse: the mid-tempo tracks. “Intentions” is just a tad too danceable for it’s own good, but it does provide a relief from the relentless onslaught of the first four songs. Similarly, “Innocents” borderlines on guilty pleasure. These tracks do grow with time, but reflect another shocking truth: there’s hardly an acoustic guitar to be found on Vital. For the first time, Anberlin turn to electronics to provide intimacy instead of stripped down ballads. This is consistent with Vital’s vision as a whole, but “Type Three” may still comes as a bit of a shock to longtime fans. The aggressively-titled closer “God, Drugs & Sex” sees Anberlin performing at their best on Vital outside of the viciously energetic cuts, and also serves as a slight departure from their “epic” tradition, which is likely for the best. At some point the obligation to make every finish a mini rock opera was bound to take its toll.

Overall: Vital soars above much of Anberlin’s discography, and finally sets Anberlin up to be what they have wanted to be since leaving Tooth & Nail: a modern rock staple, ready to tackle arenas and stages as large as any Christian artist has yet. And most astonishing of all, they’ve actually undergone this transformation without abandoning their heritage at all. All the hype is most definitely deserved this time around, and some more.

RIYL: Ivoryline, Muse, The Classic Crime, RED, Acceptance, Mae, The Smashing Pumpkins

Anberlin - Vital, 4.6 out of 5 based on 27 ratings

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About the author Carter Fraser

I'm a student originally from Arlington, TX, but currently residing in St. Louis, MO. I enjoy music, going to concerts, playing and watching baseball, working with my hands, fishing, art, Minecraft, and sleeping/eating/other necessary activities for life. Long walks on the beach are acceptable as well. View all posts by Carter Fraser

60 Responses to 'Anberlin – Vital'

  1. Lucas says:

    This album is a 5 for me, but I’m biased. I believe everyone should have that band that they will do almost anything for and Anberlin is that band for me. Either way I’m SO happy about the way Vital turned out! It’s such a fantastic new direction for the band and I’d even go as far to say it might be their second magnum opus. It is ironic, however, that out of all their discography this record sounds the least like Cities to me. I wonder if that was intentional?

    “Intentions” is wonderful by the way. I don’t care how dancey it is, it sounds amazing (catchiest thing I’ve heard all year) and “Innocent” and “Type Three” are both beautiful ballads. I really love the electronic aspect throughout this record. That being said, I do hope that aspect is limited to this record because it’s kind of what defines it for me. It’ll be interesting to see where they go next..

  2. jthejust says:

    Good review. I, however, love the danceable beat of Intentions.

  3. Daniel says:

    I think in terms of style, Vital tops Cities for me. I love how aggressive and heavy they got in this album, yet it’s still catchy as always. And I agree that Anberlin did best with God, Drugs & Sex as the album closer. *Fin will never be beat, so it’s good they tried something different!

  4. Who Can Write My Paper For Me. says:

    I have followed Anberlin since their debut, but they kind of lost me with Dark Is the Way… It had some good songs, but overall I haven’t found it to be as memorable as their past material. For that reason, I hadn’t planned on checking out this new release, but after reading this review I am definitely excited to give it a listen.

  5. Chris says:

    Eric, I like Dark Is Way, Light Is The Place but this album is Great. I don’t like the RED(that’s eh and meh) comparison to this album(that’s epic and legendary).

  6. Brian says:

    I listened to the stream, and I liked it, but still feel like it has to grow on me. I have been following Anberlin since Blueprints, and New Surrender was the low point for me. I enjoyed Dark Is The Way … and was looking forward to the new album.
    I was pretty surprised at how much electronics they used across the album. It is certainly different, but in a good way. Ensures that they are not staying stagnant and putting out the same old same old that some artists have been accused of.
    I’ll probably get the CD eventually, just b/c they are one of my favorite artists.
    I’m planning on seeing them in concert next month, which will be the first since seeing them on a side show during a festival when they had just released Blueprints and the only songs I knew were “Change the World” and “Foreign Language”.

  7. taborrr says:

    This is a AOTY contender for me. I love it. So much more energy than the last 2 albums. I feel like this is more of a follow up to Cities.

  8. tommy says:

    I did not see this coming. i didn’t care for their last two albums. however, after streaming this album last week i’m probably going to grab this on my way home from work.

  9. Daniel says:

    Can someone explain to me why Anberlin would put 2 bonus songs on the BestBuy cd, and even Unstable on the itunes edition, but only 11 songs on the cd that I preordered from them? I could go and buy Unstable on itunes, but as far as I know the only way to get those 2 other songs is by buying the BestBuy cd! Why would they do that? It kind of annoys me! :P

    • Brandon J. says:

      The download I received only had the 11 standard songs. I added “Safe Here” to the end and I am going to Best Buy today to get the deluxe edition so I can have those two bonus songs. I also want “Unstable” off iTunes :(

    • Daniel says:

      Wish the two bonus songs could be found online, cause as much as I want them, I don’t feel like paying the price for the whole cd just for those 2 songs! :P

    • Daniel says:

      By the way Brandon, what songs from Vital did Anberlin play when you saw them? Just curious. I hope to see them sometime! Unfortunately, it seems like they’ll be hitting every state AROUND Maryland, but not Maryland! :P

    • Brandon J. says:

      They played a fair mix of new and old hits (going back to Never Take Friendship Personal). I don’t remember the exact songs and I don’t have it written down anywhere. I think it was Someone Anyone, Self Starter, Other Side but maybe I’m wrong.

  10. “For a band whose thoughts on their own accomplishments inspire many itchy heads.”

    What was this in reference to?

    • Lucas says:

      I’m sure Carter’s referring to things like when Stephen said Dark is the Way, Light is a Place was “the best album they could ever accomplish” and then going onto say on Twitter that Vital would be the best Anberlin record ever. Then I saw in an interview (don’t remember where) he said Vital was their best since Never Take Friendship Personal which is confusing to me because I thought he was so proud of Dark? I also find it curious that they never mention Cities except negatively in relation to fans.

      I think in most cases it’s just the initial hype of a record. Someone said, and it might have even been Stephen Christian, why release a new record if you don’t believe it’s your absolute best?

    • there were some things that Christian said regarding DITWLIAP that didn’t seem to make sense, at least to me, leading up to said album’s release. Lucas’s comment is sort of what I meant.

    • Gotcha. Now it makes sense. Thanks.

  11. Chuck says:

    Kinda underwhelmed by this one… I like both singles they put out earlier, and the b-sides I’ve heard on youtube, but other than that only Other Side and Modern Age stood out to me. I agree with you that its probably a good thing they didn’t try to go for the spectacular “rock opera” finish, but for me God, Drugs, and Sex is a really weak closer. I’d give it a 3.5… glad y’all like it though!

  12. Yorik Bruhl says:

    Got the album. It’s good. Some is a touch ‘rock’-ish for me, but definitely pumped on it. I’d also go with 4/5.

  13. Yorik Bruhl says:

    Is God, Drugs and Sex about someone in hell….? It seems like it. Maybe I missed it, as is most likely possible.

  14. evan144 says:

    I agree that God, Drugs, and Sex was a weak closer, but other than that, pretty phenomenal album! Cities still beats it…but only by a hair!

  15. Zac says:

    Cities=Vital, Never Take Friendship Personal, New Surrender, Blueprints, Dark/Light

  16. JonBoy says:

    I’ve always struggled getting into Anberlin, not really sure why, but after listening to this ablum on spotify several times…I think I might have to pick it up.

  17. Cities, this about equal to New Surrender, BFTBM, NTFP, DITWLIAP

  18. linds4lif says:

    Hmm I didn’t realize how many people didn’t like DITWLITP! I really liked it but I do like Vital and of course Cities better. I don’t know, I haven’t met an Anberlin cd that I didn’t like thus far…

    Initially I thought this album was maybe their best, but after listening to my CD the hype has died down for me (since I listened to the album stream 4 or 5 times). I still think it’s a great cd but not better than Cities, probably tied for 2nd or 3rd.

  19. Lucas says:

    This album gets better and better with every listen. It’s dangerously close to Cities for me now. And if you’re not sold on the record yet, believe me, the stream does not do it justice. You gotta blare it loud in the car with the bass cranked up to understand how huge this album is.

  20. Smacky X says:

    Just picked this up but didn’t get a good listen in yet…very excited by all the love for it expressed on here!

  21. Iaya97 says:

    It took me about a dozen full listens, but I’m really digging it now.

  22. Joel22 says:

    Was anyone else a little dissatisfied with the production on this album? I found the rhythm guitar to be a bit too loud (which muffled the bass — something I want to hear as a bass player) and the vocals to be a bit soft at times. It kind of led me to feel a bit letdown by the album at first, but as I listened through what I disliked I found that the songs are truly very well written musically and lyrically. This one was definitely a grower for me.

  23. Tim says:

    Made a massive mistake and ordered the CD to my parents house… darn!

  24. Yorik Bruhl says:

    My album came with the song Unstable. After G,S&D. It’s actually maybe my favorite on the album…

  25. Kevin says:

    This band is overrated. I like them but I don’t think they are in the same league as Switchfoot aand other top acts.

  26. KeithX says:

    I saw Brandon’s reference to Safe Here, which is on the Australian version of the CD according to Wiki. It’s still available for download with a Facebook like and an email address (and agreeing to getting put on an email list).

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