A third album is often a dangerous and important time in a band’s career. On one hand, they can start experimenting with and tweaking their sound a little. But, conversely, they have only two albums out so they’re still fairly young, and thus probably can’t afford a misstep. Atreyu’s junior release, “Death Grip On Yesterday,” doesn’t take them to any new musical territories, but it’s nonetheless exceptional and not-at-all disappointing. This Orange County quintet’s first disc, “Suicide Notes And Butterfly Kisses,” was a fairly aggressive and heavy metalcore record, but 2004’s “The Curse” was much more melodic and polished. And now, two years later, “Death Grip On Yesterday” tries to bring the best of both worlds. “The Curse” premiered Atreyu’s use of cleanly sung vocals, and it also sold nearly twice as well as their debut, so it’s only natural that Atreyu would want to continue using them on future releases. But, unlike “The Curse,” there is plenty of metallic riffing here to prevent old-school fans from becoming completely alienated. If you want Atreyu to make an album which recaptures the all out intensity of “Suicide Notes,” you’ll have to wait a while longer. You might even have to wait forever, because the band has definitely perfected its sound and now seems very comfortable in its musical niche.
“Death Grip” is overproduced and the songwriting sounds somewhat formulaic in spots, but the tunes are very solid. And the whole record is over in nine songs and thirty-two minutes, so you’d be hard pressed to find much filler here. Even obvious attempts at getting radio play, like “Ex’s And Oh’s,” are very tolerable and even infectious. “The Theft,” “Our Sick Story (Thus Far),” and “My Fork In The Road (Your Knife In My Back)” are the heaviest songs on here, with thick, churning riffs, pounding, bruising rhythms, mostly angry vocals, and catchy, tuneful choruses. Track six, “Creature,” is one song which has heavy music held in check by melodic vocals, and “Your Private War” is a power ballad of sorts with limpid singing almost throughout. Lastly, “Untitled Finale” is one of the album’s biggest highpoints, sporting some fantastic hooks and even a couple mazey guitar leads and wailing solos, which are very cool.
“DGOY” won’t blow any minds, convert any non-fans, and it certainly won’t be heralded by any critics as a landmark or groundbreaking release. But it’s still a good album which leaves a favorable and generally satisfying (though not vastly powerful or unique) impression, and it makes the listener want to return to it occasionally in the future. Here’s everything you need to know (in a nutshell): Atreyu make catchy, accessible, melodic, smoothed-over metal for the masses, and–whether you choose to believe this or not–this disc proves that they are very good at what they do.