B-Mac Album Review: Atreyu, Baptize

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy

For any successful rock or heavy metal band, starting a new chapter in their career can be a challenge. When David Lee Roth departed from Van Halen in 1985, filling that lead singer void was going to be tough. Same thing can be said about Orange County’s own sons, Atreyu. Known for putting metalcore together with Goth, psychedelic, thrash, hardcore punk, etc., they recently went through a change as founder and frontman Alex Varkatzas decided to leave the group. Atreyu looks to step and show the metal community that they are up to the challenge. It has been 3 years since they released In Our Wake and the world ready for Atreyu once again. Working with Spinefarm Records again, they give us their eighth studio album, Baptize. With Brandon Saller stepping in front of the drum kit as the new frontman, Atreyu looks to immerse stronger than before. Let us see if Baptize is a blessing or a curse.

We start with the interlude “Strange Powers of Prophecy,” but the album truly begins with the self-titled track, “Baptize.” The blazing number is where metalcore crashes into electronica. Saller nails the clean singing, while bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight screams with fiery passion. We also get our first listen to Kyle Rosa on drums, and his performance is full of zeal. “SAVE US” is a tune that can become a new rock anthem for the fans. Lead guitarist Dan Jacobs and rhythm player Travis Miguel hammer down the riffs with God-like might, and Jacobs screeches a wailing solo that could break glass. Saller really comes into his own as the frontman, giving intense melodic flow to his singing. “Underrated” is a screamer full of fierce blast beats and bombastic screaming. Porter gives it his all with his screams, savagely snarling at the listener not to underestimate the underrated. Jacobs and Miguel do a terrific job performing the riffs as they blend nu metal and melodic death metal together. That makes for a lethal combination. “Broken Again” is a straightforward hard rock song where Atreyu sings about never giving in to defeat. It has a great message and there is solid musicianship, especially from Jacobs who whammies a dominant solo. While it does not offer anything new, it is still a great listen.

“Weed” is a heavy, melodic rock tune that has a punk rocker attitude. The group does a great job mixing the old school sound of Atreyu with their newer sound, clearing a pathway to their new destination. As Porter ravages the verses, Saller tackles the chorus. Together, they make an effective vocal duo. “Dead Weight” is has a more relaxed feel, but it is still razor sharp with the guitar hooks and meritorious solo Jacobs puts together. Saller is a champion with his voice on this song. He highlights what he can offer as a frontman. We are halfway through Baptize as we come to “Catastrophe.” Chaotic and organized at the same time, this song would be suited for a movie scene where protagonist leads his army into battle. The music video for this song is funny as the band portray as YouTubers who bash the song. That is a cool way to make fun of yourself. “Fucked Up” really spells it out for you. Similar to what Ghost would put out, it has a catchy, dark riff where Miguel gets shadowy with his playing. Porter not only is a beast with his screams, his bass licks are heavy as hell. Jacobs once again slays the solo where it is more hard rock, contrasting with the rest of the song’s tone. I like that. “Sabotage Me” is Linkin’ Park and Limp Bizkit rolled into one. Saller is given the chance to show off his rap skills, and it actually sounds decent. Not exactly Mike Shinoda, but still good. They add some emo that I did not think was necessarily.

In the song “Untouchable,” Atreyu teams up with Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix. He brings his pop punk style into the song. To be honest, I felt the collaboration was a bit mismatched at times, as the music did not fit the lyrics. It seemed to have more pop than punk. A few more listens and I am sure it will grow on me. “No Matter What” is a mixture of a power ballad and post hardcore. Saller programs the shit out of this song while Rosa shows off his skills on the drums. Lyrically, this tune gives hope to those who have none. The solo Jacobs passionately plays ignites the desire to hold on to hope. This is their most powerful song off Baptize. “Oblivion” picks up where “No Matter What” left off. Matt Heafy of Trivium lends his voice to the song, and I feel this collaboration is more in harmony. Rosa swiftly bashes the snares and cymbals with ease. “Stay” is Atreyu’s true ballad for this album. Saller harmoniously nails the lyrics as he brings warmth to his singing. It has pop elements, but they are able to balance out the rock with the pop. The album ends with “Warrior.” Empowering to the very end, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker adds his flavor on the kit. They play this marching band style drumbeat towards end. It is odd, yet I cannot stop thinking about.

Like the mystical bird known as the phoenix, Atreyu rises from the fiery ashes born anew. Baptize solidifies new life into the metalcore outfit. They could us down a different path than the one we are used to with them. Some of the songs were a miss, but many more were hits for me. It will take some time to get over the fact Varkatzas is gone, but Saller knows what he is doing. This album was definitely better than I thought. Worthy for new fans as well as the diehard ones. To Atreyu, I salute you. Horns up!!!

8.5/10

Track Listing:

Strange Powers of Prophecy
Baptize
Save Us
Underrated
Broken Again
Weed
Dead Weight
Catastrophe
Fucked Up
Sabotage Me
Untouchable (Feat. Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach)
No Matter What
Oblivion (Feat. Matt Heafy of Trivium)
Stay
Warrior (Feat. Travis Barker)

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