Anberlin – Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place
Release Date: September 7 ,2010
Record Label: Universal Republic
Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place is more than a title. It’s more than a reference to the Dylan Thomas work Poem On His Birthday. It’s more than a statement or theme. Rather, Anberlin’s fifth studio album (and second for Universal Republic) is a journey through your psyche, your deepest and darkest thoughts. It’s a place where the themes of life, love, pain, and disappointment duke it out, as lead man Stephen Christian explains that, “"Love is a friction, a chemistry. We need to fight it out in a good way, not with threats of leaving, but to, in love, find an understanding." On Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place, Christian and company try to find that understanding.
Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place is an emotionally gripping album that will channel your innermost feelings. It’s dark, aggressive, and heavy, but not in the “blazing guitar riffs/power chords/huge crashing cymbals” kind you’re imagining in your head. Sure, opener “We Owe This To Ourselves” falls in that category, but the album is much more than that sound. The Florida quintet exclaimed that this was "the best record that we can ever accomplish," and that the band was basically in the zone. And you hear that on songs like first single “Impossible.” The laid-back rhythm really brings out Christian’s stunning vocals, while the nicely-executed guitar riff that appears on the bridge will draw comparisons to Jimmy Eat World. Eventually the chorus buys up some property in your head, and that is when you realize how massive the song is. Two songs in and we need to catch our breath already.
Right on cue, “Take Me (As You Found Me)” shows up as a throwback to the mid 90’s pop ballad. You know the one that you secretly loved in grade school and wouldn’t change the dial when it popped up on that one morning radio show. The haunting “Closer” flexes the guitar chords over one of the heavier choruses, while Christian’s vocals soar over a beautiful melodic breakdown during the bridge. That song begins the very strong middle portion of Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place, as the band expands their musical boundaries with the rhythmic clap/stomping of “Pray Tell.” The thick, harsh guitar chords are paced by the syncopated beat produced by drummer Nathan Young and bassit Deon Rexroat. “Pray Tell” is just one of many musical achievements on this record.
Anberlin picks up the pace with the eerie “Art of War.” The cold, industrial sound clashes with the warm, gentle nature of Christian’s voice, thus creating a beautiful contrast. Lyrically, Christian exposes a lot here, declaring that, “there are songs I’ll never write/because of you walking out of my life/there are words that don’t belong/because of you I’ll never write another love song.” You can hear the pain over the delicate melody of the song, but quickly that pain turns into aggression on “To The Wolves.” Angry guitar riffs and chords flash throughout the song, while Christian’s voice has some bite to it as he exclaims, “who needs enemies/when we got friends like you.” Older fans of Anberlin will eat this song up, as it is a definite album highlight.
As I mentioned earlier, Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place is a journey. And closer “Depraved” is the culmination. The slow build-up is a trait we’ve come to expect with recent Anberlin album closers, and this is no different. It rises and falls between calm and chaos, as Christian’s voice toys with our ears. Finally, the perfect storm arrives, as a flurry of sound crashes into your ear canal. The track brings the journey full circle. The album features some of Christian’s bleakest lyrics yet, but also some of his most encouraging: it’s a walk through the good and the bad. “Depraved” sends the message of picking yourself up and rising to the challenges one faces in life.
It’s fairly apparent throughout the album that Anberlin was definitely in their element, as Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place is exactly what mainstream music needed: a challenging and engaging rock and roll album anyone can relate to. Their songwriting and musicianship have never been better. This is a record meant to soar in arenas, but not in a way that will alienate loyal fans. No matter where you’ve been in life or where you are heading, Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place will serve as the perfect companion.