Atreyu’s influence on metalcore’s 00s boom and beyond is undeniable, but since the Cali veterans returned from a three-year hiatus in 2014 their second chapter has proved patchy. Since then, they’ve released two albums – 2015’s Long Live and 2018’s In Our Wake – that have been decent, but hardly groundbreaking, with attempts to modernise their sound not always hitting the mark.
The band’s eighth album is their first without founding member and vocalist Alex Varkatzas, who left the band last year. It’s left ex-drummer and clean singer Brandon Saller to step forward as frontman, and he’s steered the band into a polished incarnation that’s more reminiscent of his side-project, Hell Or Highwater.
Baptize is geared around the kind of hard-rock anthemia Asking Alexandria aimed for on their most recent album, with huge choruses edging out the grit. When it all aligns, it works. Save Us is huge, with glistening melodies jostling alongside heavy-handed riffs, while well-positioned barks and growls from bassist Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight add much-needed weight.
Yet for all its aim-for-arenas bravado, much of Baptize lacks conviction. For every chorus that buries into your head, such as the title track and Underrated, there are three tracks that pass by without making as much of a dent. Atreyu have pulled in the big guns to pack some punch, but while Untouchable features Jacoby Shaddix, and Travis Barker pops up to batter out a marching band-style drum break on Warrior, the song’s impassioned proclamations of self-belief feel hollow. It’s all executed with polish and aplomb of course, but while Matt Heafy puts in an impassioned vocal from on the heartfelt Oblivion, it doesn’t feel like there’s much else here to scratch below the surface. Baptize is like an adrenaline rush that wears off quickly.