Hiatus. Is there any more potentially chilling term in all of music history? Well maybe ‘orchestral project’ or ‘unplugged.’ The lads from Atreyu have been off the album/tour cycle for four years and it’s been even longer since they last released an album (Congregation of the Damned was 2009). They dipped their toes back in the water with the Knotfest, South By So What?! and Aftershock festivals, but Long Live is the first real opportunity to hear who Atreyu are today.
Vocalist Alex Varkatzas has said that Long Live feels like an album the band could have made after 2006’s A Death-Grip On Yesterday, which is a pretty accurate way of looking at it. It kicks off with high-energy metal riffery, certainly not as refined as the ‘mature’ Congregation, and yet benefitting from that more structured, nuanced approach by applying it to the bluster of what came before. Vocalist’s screamy vocal approach is more old-school, while co-vocalist Brandon Saller sounds like he hasn’t missed a day, rather than four years. But the real standout here is the power of the guitar attack. The rhythms are tight and punchy, and the leads are well-composed and memorable. Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel aren’t afraid to hang back and explore phrasing and melody when appropriate, just as they give their all when it’s time to open the gates and rip. Tracks like “Live To Labor” really explore the possibilities of the bands’ twin-guitar attack.
“Do You Know Who You Are” is a kinda quirky track, building on the “We Will Rock You” drum beat and leaning hard on melody and hook. It almost feels out of place on the album since it’s so different to the other tracks, and yet it works perfectly within the record’s structure. The nylon-acoustic-and-string-section orchestration of “Revival (interlude)” recalls those great Tony Iommi instrumental breaks, and leads perfectly into the power metal of “Heartbeats And Flatlines.” Oh and “Brass Balls” flirts with Motley Crue-style cock rock. Atreyu has never been shy of showing its 80s influence when appropriate. This is a surprisingly diverse record and if it says anything in particular about Atreyu, 2015 Edition, it’s that while they were gone they found a renewed excitement in exploring all corners of their sound.