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Since they muscled their way onto the Orange County metal scene in 1998, Atreyu have sold over a million albums by constantly challenging themselves and their audiences with charged music and acrobatic performances that both have pushed the boundaries of catharsis and emotional exorcism.
But even those who have grown used to the unexpected from Atreyu will be blown away by the musical growth, determination and depth of the band’s Hollywood Records debut Lead Sails Paper Anchor.
Embracing new styles of singing and playing, a previously unexplored level of melodicism and a genre-shattering range of instrumentation – including Turkish saz, trumpets, strings, piano, opera vocals and pedal steel guitar – Atreyu have created an exultant disc that expands the parameters of heavy music and unabashedly exposes the band members’ love of ‘80s metal, thrash, industrial, hardcore, alternative and even alt-country. At the same time, Atreyu have written some of the heaviest, most brutal tracks of their career. “Can’t Happen Here” starts with the sound of machine guns, helicopters and screaming children, then breaks into a marching snare beat before bursting into a melodic mix of raging vocals, abrupt rhythmic shifts and a trademark Atreyu monster hook refrain. And just try to find progressions as driving and pounding as “Becoming The Bull,” “Honor” and “Doomsday.”
“We wanted to push everything about the band further than ever,” explains drummer and songwriter Brandon Saller. “We wanted the heavy parts to be as heavy as anything we’ve done, and at the same time we wanted to go full force with ideas we’ve never even approached.”?
“It’s totally us, but it comes from a musically more mature place,” adds singer Alex Varkatzas. “You can really hear us pushing ourselves to make everything as good as we possibly could.”
?The first single from the album, "Becoming The Bull," kicks off with a monster guitar groove and stomping beat before shifting into a turbo-charged chorus. Then, mid-song, the band explores dynamics with a soft, atmospheric passage that builds into a horrific scream and another pummeling groove.?
"That song is about the struggle of every day life and trying to deal with it and get your shit together," Varkatzas says. "Life is all about good and bad and it's important to realize that in order to keep your anity." "When we finished the demo for that song, we were all amazed," Saller says. "It's so different for us, but it's so cool, and it was the first indication that this record was going to be everything we wanted it to be."?
The most adventurous song on Lead Sails Paper Anchor is “Falling Down,” which begins with a shuffling beat and a near-rockabilly riff that builds in intensity until it bursts in a chorus of blaring horns and harmonized vocals, then launches into space with a blazing metal solo.
“We were doing whatever we felt like the whole time, and at one point I went, ‘Dude, I really want some horns somewhere on the record,’” says Varkatzas. “I really like bands like Rocket From the Crypt. So we put them in there and they’re tight and punchy and really help keep the song interesting.”
Another curveball comes on “Lead Sails (and a Paper Anchor)” a blend of alt-country, pop and flamboyant hard rock that features pedal steel guitar, plucked strings and sweeping, dramatic vocals.
“I think I’ve always wanted to do a country ballad,” Saller says. “We did everything we wanted to accomplish on this album. It’s leaps and bounds from where we were. This is us saying loud and clear that we can and will write and do whatever feels good to us.”
One thing that’s always felt good to Atreyu is ‘80s metal, and on Lead Sails Paper Anchor they indulge themselves like never before – especially on “Blow,” in which the band pays homage to the excesses of ‘80s metal and bands like Motley Crue (Buckcherry's Josh Todd provides guest vocals on the track).
“It has been a long time since someone made a big, epic hard rock song, and that one definitely came from [guitarist] Dan [Jacobs],” Saller says. “He has always been big time into ‘80s rock and metal and this time we took that stuff and made it bigger than life.”
Just as surprising as the eclecticism of the songs is Varkatzas’ growth as a singer. His expanded singing techniques – harsh and melodic, brash and snotty, tunefully melancholy -- effectively bridge the band’s previous blend of corrosive howls and tuneful crooning.
“I was screaming for three records straight, and it was time to bring in some new elements,” Varkatzas says. “I did that a little bit on our last album A Death-Grip on Yesterday, but I didn’t have the right tools. For this, I worked hard and practiced my ass off. I don’t have god given talent. My talent is in my determination. I’ll just try fucking hard and suck at something for a while until I finally get it right.”
Some of the riffs on Lead Sails Paper Anchor were written when Atreyu were on last year’s Ozzfest and others came on the bus during headline dates. But the majority of the songwriting took place last December and January after Atreyu got off the road. “I made it a point to sit down and write every single day,” says Saller. “Whether it was a single riff a full song or nothing of importance, I just came up with as much as I could.”
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