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Atreyu: Lead Sails Paper Anchor
American Modern Hard Rock/Metal
Rating: 4.0/5.0

As faithful readers know, I have no affinity for current American hard rock and metal. Yet, I still keep the American scene on my radar for bands that are true to melodic music. However, much of what passes for American rock or metal is a monotonous stream of angst (I hate myself and everybody else, too), aggression, harshness, and unending dirty vocals. The next new band marches to the same pied-piper that went before. Southern California based Atreyu is, in many ways, no different. Yet, I can honestly say, in so many releases there was some spark that made them interesting to me. Now comes 'Lead, Sails, Paper, Anchor,' which seems to be a major course change for this band.

Thankfully and happily, most of the straining and worthless dirty vocals are gone. Yes, Alex Varkatzas is still rough, unrefined and often gets into a 'screamo' groove. (He shares these duties with drummer Brandon Saller. I guess he's the chief screamer now.) But Varkatzas admits on their web site that he's had enough of screaming. His vocals, though harsh at times, are actually somewhat melodic and pleasing. Additionally, Atreyu brings some trumpets, strings, piano, pedal steel guitar and, yes, some bold melodies and choruses into their still down-tuned and heavy style. So now you have a band which says the old paths (or current trends) are not enough. We need to explore and expand our horizons. Now throw into the mix some kudos to 80's rock and metal and you have a very different and listenable work.

There are some very good songs on this album. 'Honor' has a big sound and a catchy melody. 'When Two Are One' is a heavy number with some spooky vocal arrangements admits some of the most dirty vocals on the album. 'Falling Down' has a near perfect melodic rock quality featuring some cool brass and a stinging guitar solo. This is probably my favorite track on the whole work. The title track is impressive if only for the simple fact this the most melodic and vocally harmonious song on the album. It's a true gem.

Other notable songs include 'No One Cares' and 'Blow, a great straight ahead (and vulgar) rock and roll number. Unfortunately, there are some real disappointments on this release like 'Lose It' (unlistenable), 'Can't Happen Here' (pure filler), and the Faith No More cover 'Epic' (rap metal, nuff said!). Nevertheless, on the whole, this is a very good album.

In the end, after listening to 'Lead Sails Paper Anchor,' I have hope for mainstream American hard rock and metal, (though only I slight hope). I'm impressed with Atreyu's new musical direction. They prove two things: first, you can buck the mainstream trends and demonstrate some true independence in creativity; and two, melody still matters in American hard rock and metal. Now, if I can only find more American bands to follow this trend. Recommended!

In Short

In the end, after listening to 'Lead Sails Paper Anchor,' I have hope for mainstream American hard rock and metal, (though only I slight hope). I'm impressed with Atreyu's new musical direction. They prove two things: first, you can buck the mainstream trends and demonstrate some true independence in creativity; and two, melody still matters in American hard rock and metal. Now, if I can only find more American bands to follow this trend.

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