A fire requires only one match. Sometimes, it can be struck in the oddest of ways, but once those flames spread, it's impossible to contain. After a three-year hiatus, the embers started to collectively glow again for Southern California metal trailblazers Atreyu - Alex Varkatzas [vocals], Brandon Saller [drums/vocals], "BIG" Dan Jacobs [guitar], Travis Miguel [guitar], and Porter McKnight [bass]. Everybody agrees that Dan first planted the seed, individually calling his band mates and urging for a meeting, but a different kind of call really set the wheels in motion.
"The first time I talked to Alex in what seemed like forever was when I heard he and his wife were having a child," admits Brandon. "I reached out to congratulate him. That led to us having lunch together, catching up, talking about things, and discussing Atreyu. Soon, the five of us had dinner, and we began mulling around the idea asking, 'What if we did this again? How would we do it? What would we want out of it?' We all seemed to be on the same page. We agreed on doing things the same way. This wouldn't be a nostalgia trip. We were going to play shows and make new music. That was the spark that lit the fire."
"The time away from it helped all of us gain perspective," adds Alex. "After doing like 200 shows per year for a decade, we were burnt out when we went away. Once we met up, we missed the band and what it meant to us. It was time to do it again. We were a hundred percent in control of our own destiny and fired up like never before."
So, the group began writing in their Orange County rehearsal space, quickly tapping into the spirit millions of fans fell in love with, but harnessing their newfound wisdom along the way. In secret, they hit the studio with producer Fred Archambault [Avenged Sevenfold] and began cutting what would become their sixth full-length album, Long Live [Search and Destroy Records/Spinefarm Records] and first since 2009's Congregation of the Damned.
As a "Thank You" to fans in 2014, they gave away their first recording - the scorching "So Others May Live" on their web site for free to an overwhelmingly positive audience response. In between rapturous high-profile gigs at Aftershock Festival, Slipknot's KNOTFEST, and a pair of sold out hometown shows in Orange County, the group finished the album at their own pace and on their own terms.
"It was such an honest process," exclaims Alex. "Aside from the actual sound of the production, Fred's biggest asset was letting us be ourselves and giving us free reign to do what we want to do. He kept the ship going the right way, helping us realize our ideas. We're at our best musically and performance-wise when we're allowed to be us. Long Live is us."
The title track is locked and loaded with a guttural guitar smash, visceral growls, gang chants, acrobatic drumming, and a massive choral refrain. It announces Atreyu's return with not just a bang, but a shotgun blast.
"That speaks volumes to where our heads are at as a band and who we are to the world," says Brandon. "It's a clear picture of what we're here to do. Atreyu has been a part of our lives for more time than it hasn't. Everything circles around this. It's a declaration that we're here to stay." Alex agrees, "It's about what our bond means. It's more than just music. We've been friends since junior high. There's a lot of history there."
"Live To Labor" unearths a stop-start punk energy as double bass fires off into a "working man's anthem," while the heartfelt chug of "I Would Kill Lie Die" explores, as Alex puts it, "Love in its purest form." Then, there's the brooding "Cut Off the Head," which stands out as the group's angriest sledgehammer to date.
"I was so f**king fed up seeing news about pedophiles, molesters, and bullies," sighs Alex. "I have no sympathy for them because they're not humans, and they deserve the worst fucking fate imaginable. In a perfect world, their heads would be cut off on national TV." At the same time, "Heartbeats and Flatlines" showcases some of Travis and Dan's most incendiary fretwork, building from a sizzling intro into an impenetrable crash.
"With this album, I feel like our only intention was to think about our favorite moments, attributes, and signatures of the band and make an album that represents those one-hundred percent," remarks Brandon. "That was the only thought. Otherwise, it was off-the-cuff and shoot-from-the-hip. That's the atmosphere we work the best in." It's an approach that solidified the group as trendsetters when their 2002 debut, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses dropped. Its follow-up in 2004, The Curse, became a genre classic moving over 450,000 copies and seeing the band blossom into a worldwide phenomenon. Their third opus A Deathgrip on Yesterday would match that success and even debut Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200, a feat also accomplished on Lead Sails and Paper Anchors in 2007. To date, the group has moved over 3 million records worldwide and sold out countless shows as well covering magazines from Alternative Press to Revolver and influencing everybody from Hollywood Undead to Of Mice & Men.
Ultimately, the title sums up Atreyu's mindset, and this fire is only starting to burn. "During the first time jamming, the first time back in the studio, and the first time on stage, it became very clear that this is something that will be in our lives forever," Brandon leaves off. "Our bodies and souls couldn't let us deny the history we'd built. The record speaks for who we are. It's the truth for the five of us."