Release Date: June 23rd 2014
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Since their formation 12 years ago Anberlin have been making the kind of earnest music that falls halfway between alternative rock and emo on the scale of genres. It’s a much maligned style of music, and when it’s combined with the band’s Christian roots, often leads to the band being dismissed just another of the many emo bands that spawned in the early to mid-00s. Despite this, they were slightly more successful than most of their contemporaries, selling in excess of 1,000,000 albums and at one point putting on around 200 live shows a year. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Anberlin announced that their most recent release ‘Lowborn’ would be their last, and that in order to release it they would return to the label that first gave them their big break, Tooth and Nail Records.
While it’s nice that Anberlin have chosen to conduct their career in such a pleasantly circular fashion it seems rather tragic they waited until their last-ever album to put out such a beautiful and mature piece of work. Lowborn represents a step away from the heavier rock and metal sound that was present in their last album Vital, although they’ve kept the electronic touches they had on that album. Lowborn is packed with songs that somehow manage to be a combination of anthemic and ethereal, the sort of music that tends to accompany soothing nature footage of majestically soaring eagles. Perhaps the best example of this, and certainly one of the strongest tracks on the album is ‘Hearing Voices’ which starts off quietly and builds to a stadium filling chorus which wouldn’t sound out of place on a 30 Seconds To Mars album.
That’s not to imply that Lowborn only contains songs of the more soaring and majestic variety, this is not a one note album. There’s final track ‘Harbringer’ which is far slower and calmer. It sounds almost like ambient music, and features a truly haunting vocal turn from frontman Stephen Christian. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s ‘Dissenter’, a fast, furious track that burns with anger. It’s an interesting contrast to the rest of the material on the album, but is ultimately probably the weakest track, as its metallic rage means that it lacks the beauty of many of the other songs on the album. Other highlights include fist-pumping anthem ‘Velvet Covered Brick’ a sterling example of the kind of arena rock with brains and emotional heart which Anberlin excel in making and opener ‘We Are Destroyer’ a synth-led banger which kicks off the album with a bang.
Overall, Lowborn is sure to be a bittersweet album for many Anberlin fans. In many ways, it’s the best album they’ve ever made; it’s chock full of mature, bittersweet, alternative-rock songs and provides concrete proof that the band have finally outgrown that troublesome ‘emo’ tag to make a proper grown up rock album. However, it’s also the last album they’ll ever release, and that’s really something of a shame, because it has the sort of wide range appeal that could have potentially earned Anberlin quite a few new fans. Still, a band’s last ever album is never about what they can offer new listeners; it’s about the legacy they leave behind for the people who believed in them from the very beginning. And in that respect Anberlin can stroll into the sunset with their heads held high, as for their fans, Lowborn represents one hell of a parting gift.