MOUNTAIN VIEW — Orange County metalcore rockers Atreyu rarely miss an opportunity to push boundaries and surprise their fans with a direction no one saw coming. After taking a break in 2011, the band came roaring back with 2017’s Long Live. The punishing and aggressive album harkened back to some of Atreyu’s earliest work and injected new life into the band and its fans.
Those that assumed the follow-up would be a continuation of that heavy sound were proven wrong. In 2018, the band returned with In Our Wake, one of its most dynamic, anthemic and adventurous albums. The heaviness is still there, but it’s painted with a fuller palette of colors. At times the band pushes even heavier while other it explores a softer and more nuanced side.
In Our Wake featured Atreyu reuniting with Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann as a producer. Feldmann also worked on the band’s 2007 breakout album, “Lead Sails, Paper Anchor.” Guitarist Dan Jacobs said when the band looked back at its records, Feldmann stuck out as someone that brought out the best in him and his bandmates. The 2018 album provided some of the most varied and experiential sounds in Atreyu’s repertoire, successfully rekindling the spirit of that 2007 album.
“When you put something out, you want it to be the biggest, best version of yourself every time,” guitarist Dan Jacobs said in a chat last month at Warped Tour’s 25th anniversary shows at Shoreline Amphitheatre, alongside guitarist Travis Miguel. “John came in and opened our eyes creativity-wise to a whole level of our band’s ability; he saw things in our band that we didn’t see.”
Jacobs and Miguel spoke about the band’s plans going forward. Atreyu again surprised fans with a deluxe re-release of the new album last week, with b-sides, rarities and some alternate versions. The anthemic “The Time is Now” is redone with symphonic strings, some acoustic instrumentation and a foot-stomping beat while “In Our Wake” is stripped down entirely for a stellar acoustic take.
Jacobs said that when they are in writing mode, Atreyu is always writing more songs than the band needs to have ample material to choose from. That was again the case in 2018, and it gave the band some of the material they reworked for the reissue.
“What we’ve learned over time is that the best case scenario for an album is to write way more material than you need,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the songs that don’t make it aren’t amazing, they just might be doubling down on messages we’re trying to get across.”
The band also faced some recent adversity on a tour of Asia, with lead singer Alex Varkatzas missing shows while recovering from health concerns. Atreyu pressed on by having drummer-vocalist Brandon Sailer step out from behind the kit to assume frontman duties while bassist Mark McKnight took on some of the more aggressive screams. Jacobs said that their chemistry built from playing together for so long, as well as Sailer’s time as frontman of Hell or Highwater allowed it to continue in Varkatzas’s absence.
The band will continue playing some shows through the end of the year before returning to the studio to start its next album.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.