Atreyu ‘Carry The Fire’ With A Full Play-Through of Classic Album ‘Lead Sails Paper Anchor’ From Their Reshuffled Lineup (SHOW REVIEW)

Metalcore band Atreyu played two big livestream shows worldwide on November 20th and December 4th 2020, under the virtual tour title Carry the Fire. While the first concert focused on their greatest hits through the years since their 1998 inception, the second focused on their biggest album in terms of band history, Lead Sails Paper Anchor. This 2007 album propelled them into mainstream attention, substantial radio play, and created the momentum for future releases.

For those following the band in very recent days, this is recognizably a big moment for Atreyu. For those who might have missed this information on the internet this autumn in the midst of all the other furor in the world, lead singer Alex Varkatzas left the band in October 2020, less than two months ago, and these two livestream concerts are the first time Atreyu has officially played under their “new” lineup, which is more of a reshuffle or an update. 

Varkatzas had been the original lead singer of the band since 1998, though drummer Brandon Saller always shared vocal duties on “clean” vocals. Saller has now become the lead singer and Kyle Rosa has joined the band as drummer (who works with Saller on his other musical project Hell or Highwater). Bassist Marc McKnight has also taken on some of the “screaming” vocals, though the word is that on new recordings, Saller is handling some of those too.

Leading up to these concerts, the band’s reshuffled lineup also released their first single together, “Save Us”, which has been well-received, and recent interviews with Saller make it clear that they are substantially through recording a new album together, perhaps near completion. The goal of the new work seems to be to continue to sound very much the way that Atreyu has always sounded, with their mix of Metal, Punk, and Pop influences, often obviously combined even within specific songs, but certainly represented within each album.

Focusing the December 4th livestream concert on Lead Sails Paper Anchor was a really solid idea because it took the new lineup into very familiar, fan-favorite territory, celebrating the history of the band and touching base with audiences so they could hear for themselves that Atreyu can still carry their own history in concert vocally and musically. To be fair, the whole reason they decided they could embark on this venture with Saller on lead vocals is because they already played a successful European tour in that configuration last year when Varkatzas had to bow out of the slate of performances due to serious back trouble. So they already knew that they could bring energy to classic Atreyu songs in a way that worked for all remaining band members.

Lead Sails Paper Anchor was the fourth studio album for the band and showed them moving away from Metalcore sounds into mixtures of Punk and Pop, and that also made this livestream concert one that would be accessible to multi-genre music fans, making it another strong choice. However, for folks who have been watching a number of different varieties of livestream concerts in recent months, the other major takeaway from the December 4th show is that Atreyu made excellent choices in their stage design, sound, and streaming technology. The entire ‘Carry The Fire’ double event screamed “high end” and this is a contrast to a lot of the tech struggles and choices bands are facing right now. The ticket price for the single show event was $15.00, though packages were available, and this is a little higher than some ticketed livestream concerts, which seem to weigh in around $10.00 or $12.00 lately. But once the quality of the event became clear, it did justify the ticket price.

Once watching the show, you felt like you were in a major, well-presented venue watching a major band on tour, complete with cutting edge HD LCD screens behind the stage on partial wrap-around (the first band to roll this tech out a few years ago was U2 on their Joshua Tree anniversary tour but now the tech is more affordable for large and mid-sized bands rather than just megabands). Each song had carefully crafted video themes, sometimes with live video footage, sometimes with more designed elements. Combined with the very clear audio and crisp performance from the band, the show felt like a high water mark of what ticketed streaming concerts can be right now if a tour experience is what the band is going for.

The only drawbacks were that the video stream for the concert was so high-res that occasionally it appeared pixelated during lighting changes and at one point the audio and video appeared slightly out of sync, both of which might have been due to my own internet connection. Lastly, the concert was less than one hour in length, which left fans a little disappointed, with people in the chat calling for an encore that didn’t happen. The concert was focused on a playthrough of the album Lead Sails Paper Anchor, and those are mostly fast songs, so the band burned through them with a shorter runtime. As a faithful presentation of the album, it made sense not to add any more songs, but it was a little short given the ticket price.

However, this was easily counterbalanced by the intense energy, focus, and fun the band brought to the album play through. It’s hard to imagine ways in which they might have been more on-point. Saller’s vocals were outstanding, showing someone clearly at the top of their game vocally and not in the least flapped by the lineup change pulling him away from his drumkit. McKnight’s vocals were also handled very well and felt totally in keeping with the band’s output.

The 11 song album performance (not drawn from the extended rerelease version of the album) opened with “Doomsday”, introducing us to the stage set up and original cover art from Lead Sails Paper Anchor and introduced the use of title card screens between songs for viewers at home, an excellent choice to make sure the event was accessible to new fans of the band.

After the playthrough of “Honor”, Saller commented on the role of the album in the band’s history, saying, “It changed our fucking lives as a band”, and contributed to making their audiences more “broad” as well as bringing new people “into their lives”. Surprisingly, though, Saller explained that many of these songs had never been played live, or not very often, so this was a new experience for the band, too. The songs themselves are very well-known, but mainly through radio play and the massive exposure of substantial album sales.

For “Falling Down”, the LCD screens were set to real footage that took us back to early 1950s and 1960s Rock and the style of early Pop music. This worked really well with the more melodic aspects of the song but contrasted nicely with the high energy performance of the band. This is the kind of combination that Atreyu handles so well, musically, and this performance seemed to celebrate that attitude.

During “Becoming the Bull”, when Saller encouraged fans to “put your fucking fists in the fucking air” whether in a computer room or office or not, kicked the energy up even higher for the middle songs of the album, reminding that the structure of the album itself was always very well planned for rising and falling action. Naturally, the mid-point of this controlled explosion was “When Two are One”, which Saller described as their “biggest circle pit song” and in order to engage audiences at a distance, they proceeded to show LCD footage of circle pits and then actually rage around the drumkit in a circle while performing the song. It’s always nice to have a “how to” from the band itself. 

“Lose It” and “No One Cares” brought in multiple vocals and multiple vocalists, showing the cohesion among the band members, rising to a full band chorus in the latter song. Several songs on the album felt particularly relevant to the world right now, pointing out how well the songs have aged and achieved a classic feel, like with “Can’t Happen Here”, talking about strife and dangerous chaotic elements in the world, both at a distance and at home. 

“Slow Burn”, interesting, slowed the concert down to a more reflective video, bringing in Saller’s melodic vocals again, and backed by video of matches burning down and flames rising up. This led into their “biggest Atreyu song without being a single”, a song Saller said became controversial because of the title, and therefore was refused radio play. Fans made it a hit, though, and “Blow” has even more punchy/current lines like “Lies are coming back in style”.

Unsurprisingly, the performance of “Lead Sails (And a Paper Anchor)” was both the high point and the most reflective moment of the concert and seemed like the big focus of the LCD screens, which conjured up the experience of being on a ship at sea. Before playing the song, the Saller commented again on the role of the album in their lives, taking them “places they didn’t think they could go”, and rather than congratulating themselves on that turning point, they held fans accountable for it, they thanked fans for creating that turning point for them. 

Hearing the song itself performed was particularly poignant right now, since for many the sense of being adrift is all too real, as well as the feeling of heading into the unknown as 2021 approaches. The song definitely concluded the performance on a high note, bringing in outstanding vocals, tight performance, and a strong commitment to the original vision from the current band of a classic Atreyu album. 


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