A full decade since their formation, Orange County, California’s Atreyu are just as subversive, unrelenting and unpredictable as they were when they first started. Congregation Of The Damned, their fifth album, is a testament to the inexhaustible power of heavy music and the unquenchable flame of five musicians determined to build a distinct sonic landscape entirely on their own terms. “This album is us stepping forward to new territory but taking with us the best of where we’ve been,” explains drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller. “It really is the culmination of a ten year career.”
Not only have Atreyu been fueled by their passion, they’ve been motivated by their determination to point out the ugliness they’ve witnessed all around them. This album contains some of the band’s darkest, most political material to date. "Our leaders have screwed us," explains vocalist Alex Varkatzas. "We've started wars, we're in a recession and we're trying to fistfuck other countries into oblivion. America's getting by on doing a lot of things in the name of God. George Bush got away with a lot of shit by throwing Jesus into the mix: 'God wants me to do this'. So instead of being a beautiful church congregation, we're a congregation of the damned. We're in such a scary place right now, I've never felt this sense of tension before - and that's in the music."
Entering the studio with producer Bob Marlette (Ozzy Osbourne, Seether), Atreyu were determined to prove themselves more than ever. Songs like Ravenous and You Were the King Now You’re Unconscious are furious and frightening, the sonic din of young adults coming to terms with the idea that they might have sold themselves short while their generation was foundering in a universal identity crisis. Whether or not that was the case, “In the past I'd had my head up my ass," Varkatzas admits. “But with Congregation Of The Damned I’ve focused myself and driven harder for what I want. We’ve brought back a bit of the old Atreyu: shredding, screaming and breakdowns.”
True, the trenchant elements of old are back, but they’re combined with stronger songwriting and flourishes that keep Atreyu sounding utterly captivating. Insatiable is powered by a harmony-filled refrain that reflects guitarist Dan Jacobs’ penchant for powerhouse ‘80s metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crue. Black Days Begin features a southern groove-chug informed by the guys’ love for Pantera, and Wait For You is a piano and strings-laden love ballad that reveals an entirely new side of the band.
The contagious first single, Storm The Pass, is simultaneously about Varkatzas’ psychological turmoil and the volatile state of the world on the brink of annihilation. It builds from an acoustic intro into a steadily chug of buzzing guitars that climax in a triumphant chorus. “I wrote it from two angles at once so it would impact different people in different ways,” the vocalist explains. “I have a tendency to get either super depressed or super pissed off. I can see it coming and I can feel it building and it’s like watching clouds or thunder heads rolling off the beach onto an island and just destroying it. And at the same time it’s about how you can see wars or conflicts forming, like Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, what’s going on in North Korea or what could be going on in Pakistan or Iran. You feel this tension building, this storm, this malice, and it’s like a never-ending cycle and it can destroy us all.” Look out for a video soon, shot with director Sean Stiegemeier.
Some of the songs aren’t political at all. Gallows -- which features the line, “Like the loser I am / I can’t help but to see / That success scares the living shit out of me” – is about personal insecurity and self-doubt, and having the tenacity to break through the fear. “I’m honestly not sure what scares me more," Varkatzas admits. "That's a lot for people to grasp. Am I not giving it my all? Have I pulled back in the past because I feared failing on my own? Or am I just not good enough? But we're all human and that's how we learn: it builds heart and character. Tenacity has got me where I am, not talent. Whether that alienates people or makes me look stupid... I can't help it." Fans can get a sneak peek of this track from Oct 13 when the band launch a new game on their website. The third in a series of Atreyu games designed by Jason Oda, it’s influenced by George Romero’s classic movie Night Of The Living Dead. Players battle a variety of zombies – some of whom resemble powerful political figures – in an attempt to stay alive. Have you got what it takes…? Meanwhile, visit www.atreyurock.com to watch special behind-the-album webisodes filmed by the band.