Atreyu's 'Baptize' Has All the Lasting Impact of a Post-Energy Drink Buzz

Atreyu's 'Baptize' Has All the Lasting Impact of a Post-Energy Drink Buzz
In a much-publicized 2018 interview with Rock Sound, former Atreyu vocalist Alex Varkatzas claimed the band "invented metalcore," before going on to admit, "that may sound cocky, but I don't care."

While a number of metallic hardcore luminaries like Earth Crisis, Integrity and Converge might have something say about such a brazen declaration, it's of little consequence for the Atreyu of 2021. Varkatzas was cut loose last year, and now former drummer and clean vocalist Brandon Saller has moved up to fill the frontman slot. Where 2018's In Our Wake was another predictable entry in what Exclaim! called the Orange County group's "palatable brand of Hot Topic post-hardcore" and triangulated pivot towards "radio-rock fare," their newest LP makes this much-telegraphed transformation complete.

On Baptize, Atreyu embrace their rightful place in the hallowed halls of homogenized arena rock without a hint of irony or self-awareness, leaning right into millennial 'woah-oh' choruses, cringey nu-metal verses, and squeaky-clean John Feldmann production utterly devoid of anything resembling grit or texture. Now, to be fair, there's nothing inherently wrong with evolution or courting mainstream appeal and, at its core, rock remains a timeless genre for very good reasons. The problem with Baptize, however, is the innate blandness of the band's songwriting and lyricism, and how shamelessly Atreyu appear to be cribbing from their many (and arguably more successful) contemporaries.

Baptize hits an early high note with Saller belting out the record's soaring title track. Sadly, that momentum dissipates with "Save Us," a track that aims to be one of the heaviest songs Atreyu have ever written, but ends up sounding like little more than a hastily discarded Beartooth B-side. Later numbers like "Untouchable" and "Oblivion" include forgettable guest features from Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) and Matt Heafy (Trivium), respectively, and are notable only for how indistinguishable the vocals and instrumentals sound from their guests' primary outfits.

This game of 'Sounds Like [Insert Band Here]' plays out across the album again and again — Avenged Sevenfold elements here, Linkin Park-isms there — without any of it feeling cohesive or distinct to Atreyu in any tangible way. Save for Saller's indomitable vocal range, "Warrior" and its Travis Barker-assisted drum-line section could be the backing track to a Fall Out Boy stadium set-piece or an NFL theme song, with a baked-in sense of intentional ambiguity that feels flavourless by design. Meatier cuts like "Underrated," "Fucked Up" and "Catastrophe" allow guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel to stitch together brief moments of shred, before being washed out by everything-must-be-massive choruses that result in a serious case of sonic whiplash.

According to their PR pitch, it's best to think of Atreyu "as a loud rock band." Questions of desired volume aside, that's an accurate description here. Baptize has all the lasting impact of a post-energy drink buzz, sounding about as unique and memorable as the rumbling static from a festival side stage you passed over in favour of the headliner. It's clear Atreyu crave rebirth in the crucible of lifeless arena rock, but with a selection of tracks this dull and inoffensive, they'll probably get their wish. That may sound cocky, but I don't care. (Spinefarm)