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Music / Anberlin

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Left to right: Deon Rexroat, Christian McAlhaney, Stephen Christian, Nathan Young, Joseph Milligan

Anberlin are an alternative rock band formed in 2002. They released three records under independent label Tooth & Nail Records before being signed to Universal Republic in 2007. Their first single from major label debut New Surrender, "Feel Good Drag", a remake of a song from their sophomore album Never Take Friendship Personal, reached number one on the modern rock charts and gave them mainstream success.

In 2014, they released their final album, Lowborn, and went on a world tour before dissolving the band. In 2021, they reunited, releasing their first new music in seven years,"Two Graves" before embarking on a fall tour.

Band Members

  • Stephen Christian (vocals)
  • Deon Rexroat (bass)
  • Nathan Young (drums)
  • Joseph Milligan (lead guitar)
  • Christian McAlhaney (rhythm guitar)
  • Nathan Strayer (rhythm guitar; 2004-2007)
  • Joey Bruce (rhythm guitar; 2002-2004)


  • Blueprints for the Black Market (2003)
  • Never Take Friendship Personal (2005)
  • Cities (2007)
  • New Surrender (2008)
  • Dark Is the Way, Light Is A Place (2010)
  • Vital (2012)
  • Lowborn (2014)

This band provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: "Lips that need no introduction" in Never Take Friendship Personal and "The patron saint of lost causes" in Cities.
  • Audience Participation Song: A few lines and the "woah-oh-oh-oh"s in "Godspeed". The word "Repair" during the main chorus of "Dismantle. Repair." During their most recent tour, Stephen would tell the audience to call the person next to them on their cell phone and hold the phones to each other during their acoustic cover of "Mother".
    • On the acoustic live disc of Devotion, Stephen refers to "The Unwinding Cable Car" as their greatest sing-along.
    • And then of course there's "Fin". They can't really tour with a children's choir, after all, but the fans know what to do.
  • The Band Minus the Face: In 2023, Stephen announced a hiatus from touring with the band, Memphis May Fire's vocalist Matty Mullins take vocal duties while on tour.
  • Call-Forward: The line "I am the patron saint of lost causes", a key refrain in "Fin", shows up in "Dismantle. Repair.", which precedes it on Cities.
    • On Never Take Friendship Personal, the line "Lips that need no introduction" is first heard on "The Feel Good Drag", several songs before album closer "Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen".
  • Careful with That Axe: More prevalent in their older works (see "Never Take Friendship Personal" and the original "The Feel Good Drag").
    • Also "Dead American" from Devotion.
    • Surprisingly, "Dissenter" from their final album Lowborn features this for almost the entire song (the only exception being the bridge).
    • "Take Me (As You Found Me)" manages the unlikely feat of pulling this off in the verses of a much mellower song.
  • Either/Or Title: Never Take Friendship Personal has the fourth track, "(The Symphony of) Blasé" being the title on the tracklist, also referred to as "Amsterdam".
  • Epic Instrumental Opener:
    • "Debut", a separate track that serves as the opening for "Godspeed" (and the album itself).
    • The trope is invoked ironically on "A Heavy-Hearted Work of Staggering Genius", the preceding track to Never Take Friendship Personal closer "Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen".
    • It's not a separate track, but the drum intro to "The Resistance" is quite epic.
  • Epic Rocking: "Dance, Dance Christa Paffgen", "Fin", "Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum)", "God, Drugs, and Sex". All of which are the last tracks of their respective albums (Never Take Friendship Personal, Cities, New Surrender, Vital). Subverted by "Harbinger", the last track of their last album.
  • Gratuitous Latin: A few song titles contain Latin, one example of which is "Misearbile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum)", which translates to "a terrible event (out of bad comes good)".
  • Incredibly Long Note: Stephen likes to show off occasionally. "The Haunting" and "Fin" have long notes that often become twice as long when preformed live.
    • Also done at the end of the bridge in live versions of "The Unwinding Cable Car".
  • Kids Rock: The choir in "Fin".
  • Lighter and Softer: Done in small increments over their first several albums. Blueprints For the Black Market had no slow or acoustic songs, Never Take Friendship Personal had "(The Symphony of) Blasé" (which was noticeably mellower than the rest of the album, but still electric), Cities had "The Unwinding Cable Car" and "Inevitable" (which were both acoustic guitar-driven), and from there on out it became more common for their records to have several ballads and/or slower anthems alongside the big rockers.
  • Love Is a Drug: "Dance, Dance Christa Paffgen".
    "Don't need no drugs, (you're my chemical)
    Now I'm dependent, (swear I'm clinical)
    Addicted to those glances, taking chances tonight,
    I need a fix in those heroin eyes..."
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: "Foreign Language" is all about this.
    "Boys speak in rhythm
    And girls in code..."
  • New Sound Album: It's not a drastic change since the band wore its 80s influences on its sleeve from Blueprints for the Black Market onwards, but Vital and Lowborn incorporated a lot more keyboards and electronic effects than their earlier albums.
  • Non-Appearing Title: A large number of their song titles are found nowhere in the lyrics. When they are, they're often not found in the chorus of the song.
  • One-Steve Limit: The band went through three guitarists who all broke the rule. First they had Joey Bruce and Joey Milligan. Then Bruce was replaced by Nathan Strayer, who shared a first name with Nathan Young. Finally, Strayer left and was replaced by Christian McAlhaney, whose first name was the same as lead singer Stephen Christian's last name.
  • One-Woman Song: "Adelaide" was supposed to seem like this (and does), but it's actually a song Stephen wrote about... himself (and it's named after the city).
  • Punny Name: "Stationary Stationery".
  • Religion Rant Song: "Fin" is type 3 (directed towards people in the church rather than Christianity itself).
    • "Dissenter" has shades of this as well, though it could be interpreted as a rant towards a lot of different people.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Reclusion". "Hello Alone" as well, though it ends on a positive note.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: It's quite common for their songs to have two different vocal parts that overlap but have different lyrics, making it impractical for Stephen to sing every lyric of every song when the band performs live. This was a problem in their early days when no one else in the band sang backup; since then either one of the guitarists will usually fill in these secondary vocal parts.
  • Shout-Out: "A Heavy-Hearted Work of Staggering Genius" is a play on the title of Dave Eggers's book "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius".
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Closer".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: A lot of their early songs can come across this way. Stephen later simplified his songwriting style somewhat after expressing some frustration about people not understanding where he was coming from in the song "A Whisper & a Clamor".
    "I grow tired of writing songs
    While people listen, but never hear what's really going on now..."

"We'll live forever, forever, forever...
I don't wanna go now, but I have to,
For you to remember me, for you to remember me..."

Harbinger, the last track of the final album