anberlin lowborn album review

by Zene Smith

Florida based band Anberlin’s latest album titled Lowborn is somewhat of a bittersweet journey in that it is the last one we will get to take with them and yet somehow, reassures us that it may be a deserving ending in this discography.  One thing I’ve found very interesting is that this album was recorded by 3 different producers, Matt Goldman, Aaron Marsh (of band Copeland), and Aaron Sprinkle, who have all worked with the band previously.  Each recorded a different aspect of the record, combining them into the final product.  This album really does have a little something for everyone and yet never sounds like anything is out of place.  This is not an easy task but I think the incredibly unique vocal talents of Stephen Christian are a large part of its cohesiveness (trust me, it’s a word).  So let’s take a walk through Anberlin’s final chapter, “Lowborn” (and no, I’m not going to hold your hand. Stop asking).

The album opens up with “We Are Destroyer” which is sure to be a crowd pleaser on this final tour.  To be honest, I have come to expect a great high-energy track right out of the gate on an Anberlin record and this exceeded what I was hoping for.  This track is a great opener to set the tone of the record, which is a somewhat conflicted statement to the effect of “Let’s do this one last time, and destroy it all when we’re done”.

Now, if you’ve heard any previous Anberlin albums you can probably hear a slight 80′s synth influence instrumentally and this record is no exception.  In tracks like “Armageddon” and “Stranger Ways” however, you can really hear them stretch their legs on this.  Utilizing a great blend of guitars, electronics, and head-bobbing rhythm with what we find as a somewhat somber Stephen Christian, it’s apparent that everyone has brought their “A” game.  Lowborn also has a real sense of ambience about itself that carries from track to track, even through the harder, guitar driven tracks like “Velvet Covered Brick” but where it really shines is on what is one of my favorite tracks on this album, “Atonement”.  This is a song about finding peace in getting lost.  Not because you regret where you’ve been, but because as [Stephen] Christian puts it, “My heart’s where I’m going”.   I believe this is not to say that their heart is no longer in making music because believe me, there is so much heart on this record.  It’s almost as if they are stepping down to follow their hearts which simply beat harder for something else (I told you this was bittersweet).

The track “Dissenter”, a lot of people may consider to be something of a black sheep on Lowborn (and no, it has nothing to do with Chris Farley).  I get why, but I encourage you to listen to it again.  Instrumentally it fits perfectly, with synths taking an adamant front seat.  It really keeps with that ambience I referred to earlier.  Sure, the vocals are going through somewhat of a harsh filter (reminiscent of the song “White Limo” by the Foo Fighters) through pretty much everything but the bridge, but its a great way to raise the energy back up from the somewhat melancholy midsection.  Now, mind you, it’s not my favorite track on the album, but I don’t find it out of place by any means.

One of the greatest things about music is that it brings people together.  Our next song “Losing It All” really speaks to that and almost acts as a “thank you and farewell” to the fans.  In the bridge, the lyrics “How could I say goodbye? We’ve come too far to turn back now. Who are we, without each other. Too entwined to untangle now” pretty much say loud and clear how, even though this is their last album, this music has brought us together and we will always be a part of each other (break out the tissues, folks).

“Hearing Voices” is probably my favorite track on the album because it’s very reminiscent of the Never Take Friendship Personal era, which was the album that got me into Anberlin in the first place (I’m a little sentimental. Sue me).  Also, this song is a mid-tempo song that has high energy as well as a few of my favorite lines in all of Lowborn, “Everyone wants to know God, but they’re afraid of what they’ll find. Everyone wants to know God, but they want to live like He died.”  Now, whether you’re are a Christian or not, you can’t deny that is some pretty great lyricism.

To close out the album, “Harbinger” ends us instrumentally on a sad note.  However, lyrically it is not only a song that speaks to the Christian beliefs of the band’s souls stating “We’ll live forever”, but an obvious nod to the fact that Anberlin will live on long past Stephen, Deon, Joseph, Nathan, and Christian, and I’m TOTALLY okay with that.

Lowborn is easily one of the best rock records I’ve heard so far this year, which seems a pretty suiting swan song for Anberlin. While it may not be an explosion of greatness the fanboy in me wanted to see as their finale, you can tell they wanted to go out on top rather than fade away.  In my opinion, they did absolutely just that.  They will indeed live on forever, because everyone should buy this album.  I give this album a solid 4.5/5!  Go pick up Lowborn by Anberlin today, available anywhere music is sold (pretty much).  by Zene Smith