California metalcore legends Atreyu have been influential to many heavy bands that followed in their footsteps during the 2000s particularly. Their latest record, The Beautiful Dark of Life, was released today via Spinefarm Records to conclude the trilogy of EPs they have shared throughout the year.
A whopping 15-track journey, the band’s ninth studio album has an underlying theme of finding light within oneself with elements of metal, punk and alternative rock. Evolving with each record to remain relevant and push sonic boundaries, Atreyu may no longer be on your radar, but that doesn’t mean Beautiful Dark isn’t worth a listen.
We had Alex Hill of Melbourne deathcore act Mélancolia, who released their debut album HissThroughRottenTeeth via Nuclear Blast and Greyscale Records this year, review The Beautiful Dark of Life as a diehard fan of the band’s earlier work to see how it stacks up.
I take a lot of influence from this band in subtle ways for Mélancolia: melody arrangements, aesthetics (pre-2006), harmonies etc. Although you probably wouldn’t know had I not pointed it out. Crazy to think a deathcore band could find anything to align themselves with when it comes to modern Atreyu, at least.
I’m aware that my favourite band Atreyu hasn’t been the band I fell in love with at 11 years old since 2010, and this is gonna feel like putting down the family dog. What makes me qualified to review this album? I have “Ain’t Love Grand” tattooed on my throat – no further questions…
Drowning: This one feels like they have taken vibes from Bad Omens and Bring Me The Horizon with the electronic and synth-driven backing. Still features a classic Brandon soaring chorus, and the opening riffs harken back to the Lead Sails era. Porter’s vocals sound as strong as they did on Death-Grip.
Insomnia: It feels like they are branching out on almost a Sweeney Todd/musical-esque intro before turning to that Bad Omens/Bring Me synth-driven backing again. Somewhat of a weak chorus, which is pretty out of character for Brandon. I’m enjoying the varying vocal deliveries from Brandon though, his range is as incredible as it ever was.
Capital F: An edgy opening, basic rock riff, moving straight into that electronic-driven stuff again. I find myself craving that classic Dan Jacobs/Travis Miguel riffing, but I’m aware that’s a very old Atreyu trait that will probably never come back (to be fair, it hasn’t been present in Atreyu since Long Live).
God/Devil: Electro stuff again (it sounds like I’m complaining about it – don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it in a certain context, but this isn’t what I’m wanting from Atreyu personally). The chorus lyrics I find somewhat cringey, but it is hard not to enjoy when Brandon delivers a melody like that. FINALLY, A DAN J SHRED MOMENT, DEAR LORD!
Watch Me Burn: This one immediately feels like it could be played at the half-time break on the AFL. Classic amp-up adrenaline rock – I can picture the slo-mo screamer in the forward 50 already. The guitar harmonies on the main riff give a slight nod to Death-Grip (one of the greatest records ever conceived in metalcore). I am begging for them to change the song structures in this record.
Good Enough: Okay, finally a riff – Lead Sails-era vibes. Immediately, we’re back into the synth-driven verse… GOD FKN DAMN, PLAY A 5-7-8 RIFF, I’m begging you. I’m getting pretty sick of it at this point, but it doesn’t mean these are bad songs. One thing I’m enjoying however is the combination of Porter and Brandon screaming together – they compliment, and almost harmonise with, each other.
Dancing With My Demons: Okay, the drums are finally doing enough for me to actually pay attention. Still very BMTH style synths, but at least they’re executed well. Chorus is a bit whatever. Post-chorus kinda goes off though with the lil natural harmonic and the quarter note high hats – big breakdown with a panic chord in there.
Gone: Off to a chuggy start, the verse finally isn’t something synth-driven – a lil touch of “The Crimson” clean guitar in the verse. There’s somewhat of a power ballad vibe on this chorus. Pre-chorus, however… great energy – Brandon and Kyle are carrying it on this section. LFG DAN J WITH A SOLO, BIG “EX’S AND OH’S” VIBES YEAH DAWG.
I Don’t Wanna Die: Yes dawg harmony lead, kinda getting vibes similar to self-titled A7X – it’s got a bit of twang and stang (you probably think that doesn’t make sense, but it does). I can see what they’re doing with this one, but once again not my vibe, feels a bit like tradie metal for patriots whose wife recently divorced them. Seems like a very abrupt ending out of nowhere which I find to be confusing on a focus track.
Immortal: Kinda spooky vibes on the intro which is sick, verse is a lil cringe on the lyrics. Okay, BIG CRINGE on the chorus. I feel I should keep iterating that I understand this isn’t the same band that released my three fav albums, but dear lord I can hear the Bud Light in these lyrics.
(I): It’s the same goddamn intro again, heavily reliant on the backing track synths, into a similar verse that ALL the songs have. I enjoy a couple little robotic sounding adlibs vocally during the verse. Chorus seems to be more recycled drivel, more beep-boop stuff for the bridge, same song structure as all the others. Big breakdown that may have saved this song (cool pedestrian crossing sample) then back into the same chorus again.
Death or Glory (feat. Sierra Deaton): A slower vibe on the doomier side here, I’m enjoying the frantic vocal patterns in the verse. Unfortunately met with another Friday Night Football chorus. Acapella break post-chorus not my cup of tea, but at least they’re changing it up a bit. Sierra’s vocal feature is a bit of fresh air in terms of structure, but otherwise there’s nothing here that’s actually grabbing me at all.
Forevermore: Crazy to think I’m getting more A7X City of Evil vibes off this album than it being an Atreyu album. This song is definitely off to a slower start and I’m assuming another ballad. String quartet + acoustic + Brandon yearning = success, right?
Come Down: This is ALMOST the chord progression of “The Theft” and I’m pleasantly surprised so far. Fat fuzz on the bass, frantic vocal patterns from Brandon. Chorus has pace, but unfortunately I’m let down by the Disney sing-along chorus. Back into a sick verse, this is my favourite back and forth from Porter and Brandon so far. The leads in the back pre-chorus are shining through.
The Beautiful Dark of Life: Last song – I’m ready to lay this album to rest and never listen again, this title track is either gonna suck or suck. FINALLY, A FKN RIFF, OH MY GOD. LITERALLY THE LAST SONG, YOU DOGS. This legit feels like what this album should have been the whole time. I can actually feel every Atreyu album in this, there are riffs, leads, Porter is on point, melody delivers exactly what it needs to without overdoing it. Drums aren’t crazy flashy, but I feel that’s not really necessary.
Overall, FOR ME PERSONALLY, 3/10. This album made me mad, but as I said, I am not a modern Atreyu fan. I wasn’t expecting The Curse, but I was hoping for more of a nod to the old stuff than what I got on this. I would have enjoyed less leaning on synths and FX during the verses and A LOT more Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel shining through. Drummer Kyle Rosa serves his purpose well, but nothing really grabbed me.
From a technicality standpoint, Brandon is infallible vocally, as is Porter with his backing vocals. But structurally, creatively and musically, a lot is left to be desired. I understand wanting to play it safe and release the rock ballads this far into a (once) metalcore band’s career, but this felt too safe for me. From the perspective of a new listener getting into rock and metal, this is a palatable entry point and I feel that’s what the goal was here. 6/10 if you have never heard early Atreyu.
To celebrate the album, Atreyu will be heading to Australia in February for five dates with Bad/Love as part of the We Want Your Skulls World Tour. Get your tickets HERE.