Review Summary: The musical maturity this metalcore band has shown in this frantic and powerful album deserves a great deal of respect despite minor flaws, and in the midst of many imitators, Underoath shows why they were imitated in the first place.
Underoath is a band that has changed so much over the years. To date, Aaron Gillespie is the only member of the band that has been a part of Underoath since the beginning. After vocalist Dallas Taylor was asked to leave and soon began Maylene, Spencer Chamberlain stepped in. Their following record, "They're Only Chasing Safety", became an album that had the sound of an awkward time in the band's history, sort of a growing pains phase. Aaron actually wrote all of the lyrics on the album, even Spencer's. However, 2006's "Define The Great Line" was a powerful explosion of melodic metalcore that despite perhaps some minor flaws was a largely successful record that the band was very proud of. When the time came for a new record, it seemed hard to tell which direction the band would go next.
"Lost In The Sound Of Separation" is most certainly their crowning achievement. They took what they did so well in Define and refined it to a point of obsession. Again tapping the expertise of producers Matt Goldman and Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage) they refueled their engines and added a fresh coat of paint to their well oiled metal machine.
The first track, Breathing In A New Mentality, starts off with what could be seen as a false beginning and waits a bit before knocking you off your feet. This short song is tight and almost eerie with Spencer's deep growls and the guitar combo of Tim McCague and James Smith. A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine seems to relate back to some of the songs off of Chasing Safety, with a lighter chorus and emphasis on Aaron's pitch perfect vocals. After he yells "I was lying" at what seems to be the top of his lungs at around 2:40, Spencer adds powerfully: "This is defeat" just before the ending which shows off keyboardist Chris Dudley's simple yet effective tones on top of the droning guitar. Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near is written and executed just like the name implies; as if Spencer is screaming at the top of a hill to nearby onlookers to warn them of theforthcoming danger. The guitars and drums are quieter to follow the more subdued tone of the song but they fit perfectly. Even bassist Grant Brandell is very noticeable in this respect. Unfortunately, this is one of the few songs where you can hear him.
The second half of the record start off with a bang with The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed. It adds kerosene to the bonfire with the crushing efficiency of its vocals, guitars, and drums. The beginning sounds like a hammer smashing a nail into place while Spencer screams "Repeat, repeat, repent, and repeat". And my personal favorite, We Are The Involuntary showcases Spencer's masterful song writing that matches perfectly with the impenetrable wall of sound behind him. His trials and tribulations are certainly expressed well here with a vocal style that finds the middle ground between abstract and direct . Beat after beat Aaron continues to absolutely rock the drum kit while the guitars seem to go back and forth like a pendulum. The two vocalists harmonize for the lines "I'll come up for peace, I'll come down for truth, I'll give in, I'll give up for you" with Spencer actually showcasing a clean vocal style that surprisingly works well with Aaron's. Coming Down Is Calming Down demonstrates a hard hitting, in your face, blistering slice of Grade A metalcore, no questions asked. The single, Desperate Times, Desperate Measures, seems to sum up the album in that it has very technical drumming, heavy as well as ethereal guitar, and an even mix of each vocalist. The final two songs are experiments in melody that I believe represent something new for the band. Too Bright To See Too Loud to Hear is very direct in that its lyrics are an expression of how Christianity drives their music. With simple guitar and drums, Aaron and Spencer end with a beautiful display of vocals yet again as they say "We're forgetting our forgiveness". The last song consists mostly of Chris's concise and moody keyboard and is devoid of vocals until the very end when Spencer yells a verse that was recorded by throwing a microphone down a hallway and yelling into it from across the room, giving the feeling that he is lost in a tunnel or a hole and is yelling to you for help and safety.
The album delivers on nearly all the hype surrounding it. Spencer's growls and scream are spot on and are not superfluous in nature. Aaron supplies the most refined drumming and vocals that I have ever heard on an album. Their vocal styles express their trials and tribulations well here and finds the middle ground between abstract and direct . Tim's use of effects pedals and James punishing rhythm guitar set the frantic and yet precise tone for the album. The production really shines through in the album with Adam D's emphasis on precision and Matt Goldman's effort to give the sound a more natural feel. A few disappointments are the lack of bass and keyboard in the album. The bass is there but is largely inaudible save a few parts, and although what keyboard is apparent is well done, it's almost never there. In many respects this is the same kind of album as Define The Great Line, sort of a sequel. While this isn't necessarily wrong, it is still unfortunate that a band of this caliber chose not to come up with a new way to apply themselves.
Despite your opinion of the band or the album, it seems hard to distract yourself from the fact that the musical maturity this metalcore band has shown deserves a great deal of respect, and that this album is a culmination of what they have become over the course of six albums. In the midst of many imitators, Underoath shows unsurpassed quality that explains why they were imitated in the first place.