It’s unfortunate that some music snobs won’t listen to Anberlin because of their perceived association with Christian Rock and the Christian music scene. It’s unfortunate because their latest album Vital is a rather nice piece of work. And as far as I can tell, there are no lyrics about Jesus on it. It is also – according to lead singer Stephen Christian – their most aggressive album, tinged with elements of hard rock, metal and grunge. I fail to see how any of this makes them a Christian band.
Christian himself says the band is over that debate. While they are believers, all they can be as musicians is to try and be the best band they can be, irrespective of religion, credo, dogma, or belief system. And I agree. Vital definitely shows an evolution and musical maturity from their earlier work. Isn’t that what matters in the end?
Anberlin are by no means the first group to undergo the are-they-Christian-or-aren’t-they test? (Creed anyone? Switchfoot?). If some sources are to be believed than it is possible that Contemporary Christian Music was invented by a Jew named Robert Allen Zimmerman in the 1960s. CCM itself is quite varied; there is Christian punk, Christian metal, christian hip hop and Christian rock, so what then is the criteria for being a “Christian band”. Does singing choral music qualify as christian music? Does gospel? (which by the way was the basis for soul – no one ever called Ray Charles a Christian musician). Also, many pastors and religious institutions frown upon CCM as going against God’s teachings. So really, it’s just like regular rock music that way. But I digress. Back to the boys from Anberlin.
Stephen Christian can understand why the band is labeled as such. Not so much because they are Christians, but more due to the fact that we want to fix into boxes, fit into groups, just fit in. It bugged them at first, because they felt it would be a distraction to their music, but now they are simply Anberlin (which, by the way, has no scripture of religious theme behind it). Yet, at the same time, Christian says, genres are so broad that it becomes difficult to define anything. Take a look at grunge for instance. Nirvana and Nickelback sound nothing alike, but both are considered a form of grunge. So Stephen gets it, and is not blaming the critics, or anybody for that matter.
Whatever they did on this album, it worked. The chord progressions, the melodies, the resonance. Each song is its own cohesive unit. My particular favourite happens to be “Someone, Anyone”, while Stephen Christian says his is “Self-Starter”. Both are top quality, as is the whole record. My suggestion? Take a listen and decide for yourself