Everyone leaves a legacy behind. No matter how big or small, our words and actions echo forever and make a lasting imprint.
Two decades since their 1999 formation in Southern California, that truth weighed heavy on the members of gold-selling metal mavericks Atreyu—Alex Varkatzas [vocals], Brandon Saller [drums/vocals], “BIG” Dan Jacobs [guitar], Travis Miguel [guitar], and Porter McKnight [bass].
Of course, their musical legacy speaks for itself. 2002’s Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses established them as an influential force, while 2004 follow-up The Curse sold 450,000-plus copies as the group rose to global renown. A Deathgrip on Yesterday and 2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor both bowed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 with the latter garnering a gold certification from the RIAA—a highly rare accomplishment for a 21st century rock band.
Following a hiatus post-Congregation of the Damned in 2009, the musicians returned firing on all cylinders with Long Live during 2015. It crashed the Top 30 of the Billboard Top 200 and earned widespread acclaim from Revolver, Loudwire, AXS, and Kerrang! who dubbed it “a hell of a return.” Along the way, the boys sold out countless headline shows in addition to sharing the stage with everyone from Slipknot and Linkin Park to Chris Cornell and Avenged Sevenfold.
As they commenced writing for their seventh full-length, In Our Wake [Spinefarm], the band posed an important question…
“What are you going to leave behind?”, asks Brandon. “We named the album In Our Wake, because a lot of the concepts address this question. There are lyrics about dealing with your own personal demons and darkness. Some of it is about our children, which his who we live directly in our wake. Others are about the general public and the outpouring of hate and fear—especially in our country. We created something of a concept record without even trying.”
“Everything we do causes a ripple or a wake,” adds Alex. “It can be positive and good, or it can be fucked up and horrible. However, we are the masters of our own destiny. We want to leave something good behind.”
Following a two-year tour cycle for Long Live, Atreyu regrouped in Southern California and started sharing ideas for what would become offering number seven. Ceremoniously, they all agreed it would be the right time to reunite with producer John Feldmann who famously helmed Lead Sails and Paper Anchor.
“Long Live was really heavy and reminiscent of our early material,” continues Brandon. “While we were on the road, fans kept asking to hear more from Lead Sails and Paper Anchor. It made us revisit that era of the band. It was a fun, experimental, and explorative time for us, which is so fun. We wanted to give ourselves and the landscape of heavy music a jolt, so we reached out to Feldmann.”
The band recorded in two chunks bookended by Brandon’s touring obligations for Hell Or Highwater. Working out of Feldmann’s Los Angeles studio, they embraced this new approach as the producer still made them “wonderfully uncomfortable and willing to push harder,” according to Alex.
“Every song with the exception of two was fully written in the studio,” says Brandon. “We’d split off into groups and crank out two ideas per day. We’d never written a fresh idea from scratch every day. Spontaneity makes things flow so much better though. We also never spread an album out like this either. We laid the foundation with five recordings, sat with them, and finished with a better picture of where we wanted to go.”
As a result, the record sees Atreyu once again evolve. The first single and title track “In Our Wake” hinges on a slow burning, but bombastic percussive buildup before charging ahead with an undeniable chant and fiery fretwork.
“It’s a deep one,” admits Alex. “We looked up to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and their deaths were fresh during the writing process. It made us think of what we’ll leave in our wake. We have a choice to change the lives of others for the better.”
A ticking clock gives way to a stadium-size chant on follow-up single “The Time Is Now.” It seesaws between a robust beat and scorching call-and-response by Alex and Brandon as they carry the carpe diem chorus.
“It’s all about just grabbing life by the balls, picking yourself up by your bootstraps, and realizing you only have one shot at this,” Brandon goes on. “That was very reminiscent and reflective of this album. In our heads, there’s no time to fuck around or just do what we’ve always done. We have to really fucking go for it. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so we went for it.”
Meanwhile, “Terrified” swings from a hypnotic refrain into an acoustic bridge, illuminating the diversity at the heart of In Our Wake. Closer “Super Hero” [feat. M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold & Aaron Gillespie of Underoath] conjures visions of “Atreyu meets Queen meets Disneyland meets E.L.O.” with its cinematic orchestration, horns, flutes, and grandiose production.
“It’s about being your kid’s superhero, so we invited other singers who are fathers to join us,” Brandon explains. “Everyone wrote his own respective part and gave perspective on what fatherhood meant to him. I wanted it to feel like the music from the Soaring Over California ride at Disney’s California Adventure park. It ends on such a huge note and offers a breath of fresh air.”
In the end, In Our Wake doesn’t just reaffirm Atreyu’s legacy, it expands it like never before.
“We want to give listeners an experience,” Alex concludes. “Every track functions as its own moment. There’s something that you can hopefully come back and listen to again and again.”
“I feel like this is the record that people will remember our band by,” Brandon states. “I’m saying that because the best parts of Atreyu happened on it. We’re continuing something we began a long time ago. This band means everything to me. We’ve been through incredible highs and incredible lows. We’ve loved each other, and we’ve wanted to kill each other. Somehow, twenty years later ,it’s reached a whole new level. I feel like we’re alive, and Atreyu has never been more on fire than we are now.” – Rick Florino, July 2019