Every great band has to start somewhere. Debut albums are often used to measure just how much a band has grown and improved. But they can also show a band at their most honest. With Blueprints For The Black Market, Anberlin produce a raw, energetic brand of alternative rock that paved the way for their future releases.
The album roars out of the gates with the single “Readyfuels.” This sets the bar for how the band seamlessly blends melody with just enough aggression to give it a kick. The song is propelled by the furious guitar work of Joseph Milligan and Joey Bruce, the latter of whom left the band after this release. “Foreign Language” follows and shows the opposite end of the spectrum for the band. The upbeat, poppy track really lets frontman Stephen Christian’s voice take center stage and carry the song. Christian has a very versatile voice, but has his own very distinct style as well. “Change the World (Lost Ones)” features Christian displaying a much more powerful singing voice, and proves he can seamlessly transition between the two tones. The combo of “Cold War Transmissions” and “Glass to the Arson” may be one of my favorite one-two punches on any album as they really exemplify the album’s rawness. Both are straightforward rock songs, but the band puts their own twist on each. The former plays off the back-and-forth of aggressive verses matched with very melodic choruses. The latter is the most aggressive track on the album, as well as one of the best. It is a very simple song, but also packs the biggest punch.
“The Undeveloped Story” is a fun track, blistering along with the aid of a little cowbell. “Autobahn” is the poppiest song on the album and goes all out with the cheesiness factor. With its wavering synth and acoustic guitar, it is the weakest track on the album. “We Dreamt In Heist” has the band finding the perfect blend of pop and rock while Christian’s vocals once again steal the show. Anberlin’s cover of The Cure’s “Love Song” is a welcome surprise. The piano is a nice touch and the track oozes emotion, something that is rare in cover songs. “Cadence” and “Naïve Orleans” end the album strongly, continuing with the album’s core sound.
Blueprints For the Black Market can be used to show just how much Anberlin have grown as a band since 2003. But the simplistic, raw sound of the album is refreshing, and has the band doing what they do best, which is writing melody-infused rock songs. They may have branched out and perfected their sound since this album, but Blueprints is as solid and heartfelt of an album as any the band has written.