Artist: Anberlin
Title: Lowborn
Label: Tooth & Nail Records

Alternative rock outfit Anberlin surprised fans earlier this year by announcing that this seventh album, Lowborn, would be its last. A swansong by design, it sees the act returning to its original record company home (Tooth & Nail) after some time in the major label limelight and penning nostalgic lyrics that clearly address this demise. “I love where I’ve been, but my heart’s where I’m going,” Stephen Christian sings on “Atonement,” a poetic pop ballad awash in acoustic guitar and layered with meaning.

The front man recently told USA Today, “None of us are angry, there’s no chaos within the band. My passion has shifted, has changed to being with my family and living a different life.” And so Lowborn is a bittersweet journey, a taut ten-song goodbye that reminds listeners why they love Anberlin and hate to see the cut-above Florida quintet go now.

Lowborn reflects the corners Anberlin has explored before. There’s a braid of dynamic aggression—grunge, Goth, metal—that surfaces in varying degrees several times beginning with “We Are Destroyer,” a ripping opener with throttling bass, floating melody, and industrial keys reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. It’s a lot better than on “Dissenter,” where the heaviness sounds more like thrash for thrash’s sake.

Fortunately, the bulk of the set owes more to the ‘80s British pop influences Anberlin has revealed on past covers of signature Depeche Mode and New Order hits. “Armageddon” flirts with a dubstep throb in the background, the spidery atmospherics of The Cure, and more talk of an ending: “I’ll build this city just to bring it to its knees. I am my own Armageddon.”

The convergence of melody and electronics with unexpected heart on “Stranger Ways” and “Birds of Prey” feels like The Fixx or Duran Duran at their 1983 commercial peaks, while the full-tilt “Velvet Covered Brick” boasts the big echoing production values of early U2. All carry spiritual themes, from the search for truth to the approach of death.

Finally, the fittingly ethereal “Harbinger” closes with words that could construed as biblical or as a veiled reference to the band’s farewell: “I don’t want to go now, but I know I’ve got to for you to remember me.” Consistently creative and well received to the end, Anberlin won’t soon be forgotten.

*Published 8/4/2014