At the Drive In are often regarded as one of, if not the most, important and influential bands in the modern post-hardcore genre. Their third album, 2000’s Relationship of Command received critical acclaim and is still counted by many as one of the greatest rock albums of the 21st century. However, they enjoyed only brief mainstream success after the release of that album before announcing their indefinite hiatus in March 2001. While members went on to form bands such as The Mars Volta and Sparta, the possibility of an ATDI reunion seemed unlikely for a long time. The band eventually reformed in 2012, playing a handful of shows before taking another short hiatus. Finally, the long wait for new ATDI music ended in 2016 with the band announcing that they would be releasing a new album, their first in 17 years, titled In•ter a•li•a.
After such a long absence a certain level of expectation is inevitable, one which can be almost impossible for a band to live up to, especially when their previous work is still so celebrated. On In•ter a•li•a, ATDI make a valiant effort to achieve this, falling just short of the incredibly high benchmark set by Relationship of Command. The fast-paced opener ‘No Wolf Like the Present’ recaptures much of the fire and energy of their last album, setting the tone for what’s to come. The new album also boasts more of the band’s signature unconventional song titles such as ‘Tilting at the Univendor’ and ‘Torrentially Cutshaw’.
Despite delivering plenty of great riffy tracks like ‘Call Broken Arrow’ and lead single ‘Governed by Contagions’ one can’t help feeling like there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the absence of founding member Jim Ward, or perhaps the distinct shortage of slower, more nuanced songs. The only song on In•ter a•li•a that really captures this side of the band is the groovy ‘Ghost Tape No. 9’, which brings to mind some of the more atmospheric cuts from Relationship… that helped make that album so interesting.
Another way in which In•ter a•li•a doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor is in how it ends. While ‘Hostage Stamps’ is a strong single and features one of ATDI’s best riffs to date, it feels somewhat underwhelming as an album closer compared with Relationship’s haunting final track ‘Non-Zero Possibility’. Perhaps ‘Hostage Stamps’ would have been better suited as the album’s opener, while a more climactic finale would have gone a long way to making the album feel more complete. Overall, In•ter a•li•a is a solid album and a welcome comeback by a legendary band, but doesn’t quite reach the highs of their seminal previous album. It does show however that ATDI are still a force to be reckoned with even after an absence of nearly two decade, and we’re still excited to hear what they do next. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait so long this time!