Review: Anberlin, “New Surrender”

Anberlin, New SurrenderAnberlin has only been around for seven years, but in that time they’ve released some of the bigger releases from Tooth & Nail Records, including the breathtaking masterpiece of Cities from 2007. Cities saw Anberlin move from the standard rock/alternative band to a mainstream contender, and the band signed to Universal Republic Records, finishing their contract with Tooth & Nail. Cities was also quite a bit of a departure into a much more mature and solid rock sound, implementing various instruments into the mix rather than just sticking to the guitars, bass and drums. It seems that the new label wanted the band to put out some new material to market, and New Surrender was released this past summer to the masses, after a b-sides collection finished their contract at Tooth & Nail.

While it may seem that the band hurried to get this release out to fans, in actuality New Surrender is the record that the band has spent the most time on in the studio. Stephen Christian has gone on record to say that the first three records took between 3-5 weeks in the studio to write and record, while New Surrender took a solid 8 weeks. So, in theory, since the band worked harder and longer on this album than the rest, it should be the best, correct? In my opinion, it isn’t. In fact, I feel it’s a step backwards. While the record has some excellent tracks (“The Resistance”, “Disappear”, and the ballad “Breaking”), the complete feel of the record is lacking. Let me explain.

Anberlin’s first two albums showcased pop/rock sounds all the way through, but Never Take Friendship Personal was a significant improvement from Blueprints for the Black Market. Then, Cities came along. The album basically redefined what the band has been doing for years, and it was much more mature within both songwriting and overall sound. Fans were impressed and it was definitely a highlight of the band’s career, garnering lots of hits. New Surrender feels like it lacks the mature bite of Cities, and feels like a step back to the days of NTFP. More distortion and sing-song choruses about, particularly in songs like “Haight Street”, and the popular “Blame Me! Blame Me!”. Stephen’s vocals seem to be missing the emotion that was prevalent on Cities and even NTFP. “Miserabile Visu” serves as the finale to the new album, and sounds like the band was trying to recreate the passion and emotion from the finale of “(Fin*)”. While it is an elegantly-performed song, it just doesn’t seem to work on the same level.

That isn’t to say the entire record is bad, as many of the more upbeat tunes showcase what Anberlin is known for. If I could move New Surrender to another place in the band’s career, it would replace their third record, and Cities would have been the newest album, as it seems to be the most mature and well-written album from the band. In the end, New Surrender is a decent release from the Tooth & Nail veterans, but it’s definitely missing things that their previous albums have made prominent.

Star Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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