On ‘Lead Sails Paper Anchor’, Atreyu moved away from metalcore’s conventions to achieve unprecedented success

If you’re wondering whether the hype for Atreyu’s major-label debut album Lead Sails Paper Anchor was huge or not, consider that a set of unique video games were created in preparation for the record’s release. Coming off three highly successful albums for Victory Records, Atreyu were part of the 2000s wave of metalcore bands that were pretty quickly snapped up by major labels. Reaching a wide audience with their sophomore album The Curse in 2004, Atreyu’s popularity started to explode in the couple years after that – reaching a fever pitch with their major-label debut.

Lead Sails Paper Anchor was the result of that relationship, and almost right away you can tell Atreyu’s more accessible direction is coming to full fruition. Foreshadowed on their previous album A Death-Grip On Yesterday, tracks like huge single “Becoming The Bull” and “Falling Down” feature more singing from the band than ever before. Particularly interesting is the latter, which almost comes across as a pop-punk song (with a requisite guitar solo), and further accentuates the catchy vocal melodies that Alex Varkatzas and drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller are skilled at implementing.

There’s a couple obvious standout songs on Lead Sails Paper Anchor of note. “Can’t Happen Here” merges machine gun-esque drums with an aggression that would fit right in on their last album, while album opener “Doomsday” balances both old and new sounds to create something fantastic. Seriously, the guitar solo and riffing from Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel are some of the best on the album right here, and that goes double for “When Two Are One”. A contender for Atreyu’s best song overall, the vocal dynamics from Varkatzas and Saller, as well as Miguel, Jacobs, and McKnight all being in sync the whole way through, is truly something to behold. The guitar solos? Blistering. The melodies? Huge. And it’s all done without most of the trademark aggression Atreyu was known for in this era.

Interestingly, there’s a few songs on the album that would also foreshadow future directions that bands like Of Mice & Men would chase. While not a standout on the surface, “Lose It” features opening riffs and even melodies that would fit right at home on Restoring Force, for instance. Meanwhile, there’s tracks here that show off Atreyu’s arena rock ambition. Particularly “Blow” (which features Buckcherry’s Josh Todd), which brings together their penchant for anthemic rock songs with MORE cowbell. Love to see (well, hear) it. Notably, album closer “Lead Sails (And A Paper Anchor)” is a dialed-back song that comes seemingly out of nowhere, at least stylistically speaking. The best way to describe it would be almost…alt-country? Kind of?

Ultimately, Lead Sails Paper Anchor is an uneven affair at the end of the day. Produced by John Feldmann, it’s equally slick and rawer as far as production choices go, and it bleeds into the songwriting as well. However, there’s enough huge choruses, guitar solos, and melodic accessibility to make this a solid album at the end of the day.

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