Review Summary: Underoath is no longer Underoath.
Just to set some facts here before I start this review: I have been listening to Underoath since they've released Cries of the Past. I have listened to every single album, including TOCS, DTGL, The Changing of Times, and Act of Depression. I have also listened to this album three times, and have given it more than enough time to "set in" so that I can possibly appreciate the music. I like(d) Underoath as a band, although they have begun disappointing with their previous album, Define the Great Line, and now with Lost in the Sound of Separation.
Where do I begin? Underoath wanted to adopt a "heavier" sound since Define the Great Line.
Did they succeed? Far from it.
The only thing they managed to do is pay Adam over from Killswitch Engage to show the band how to change the tone of their guitars. That's it. If you think changing the tone of your guitar will automatically change you from a post-hardcore band into a metalcore band, you're mistaken. Underoath was originally a very sincere band. The lyrics in their songs gave glimpses into personal relationships, experiences, and included heartfelt emotion. This all changed after Define the Great Line was released. Spencer no longer wanted to scream like Dallas Taylor, and so he started singing in what the new Underoath audience considered "hardcore". So he growls and whines and keeps on screaming every two seconds in every song. The screaming turns generic, monotonous, and unnecessary. The lyrics he spews out are incomprehensible (unlike in They're Only Chasing Safety where you could actually understand the lyrics). Spencer's screaming in Define the Great Line and Lost in the Sound of Separation reminds me of someone buying a fake Prada bag from Chinatown in order to show off to her girlfriends that she is just as cool as them.
And then they added Aaron's vocals into almost every single song. Probably one of the worst ideas ever. The inclusion of Aarons' voice in Underoath songs were rare, and actually special. They made that certain song stand out, and added a special touch to it (take for example, "I've Got Ten Friends And A Crowbar That Says You Ain't Gonna Do Jack" from the Special Edition of They're Only Chasing Safety). Now that every song has Aaron's voice in it, we have a blend of Spencer's computerized screaming combined with Aaron's whiny singing. Don't get me wrong, I used to enjoy Aaron's whiny singing in the background of their older songs, but now it is just excessive and unnecessary. And this leads me to one of my main points: every song seems to have a set structure.
This structure is as follows:
1) Create heavy distortion on the tone of your guitar and try to imitate Killswitch Engages' sound (which they'll never get right, by the way).
2) Allow Spencer to scream all the way through the song, and allow absolutely no breathing room for the listener. And make sure that what Spencer is screaming can't be understood.
3) Give Aaron just as many vocal parts as Spencer, in fact, take Aaron off drums and have two vocalists.
4) Create "dramatic" pauses in the middle of your songs, to add a "unique" feel to every song (which soon becomes nullified because they do this on several songs in this album).
This structure seems to be replicated in every song on Define the Great Line as well as in Lost in the Sound of Separation. Like seriously, why is every song indistinguishable from one another? It also intrigues me that some songs in Lost in the Sound of Separation include riffs from Define the Great Line (just slightly altered). Take for example the song "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures", how this song begins and how "In Regards To Myself" (from Define the Great Line) begins, is nearly identical. It seems that Underoaths' lack of new guitar riffs has led them to recycle some songs from Define the Great Line. This leads me to another point. Why does this album sound exactly the same as Define the Great Line? Has any Underoath fan (who has heard all or most of their albums), noticed that Spencer was a much better vocalist in his screaming style during They're Only Chasing Safety than he was after that album?
Spencer tries too hard to sound "hardcore". His screaming seems very forced and mechanic. Unlike other vocalists (take for example Tim Lambesis from As I Lay Dying), Spencer does not scream in accordance to the music playing. His screaming is all over the place, and seems unorganized. If we look back at They're Only Chasing Safety, Spencer's screaming actually "flows" with the music, and gives a true sense of emotion.
Moving on to Aarons' drumming, I must say this: I am impressed. His drumming has certainly gotten better from a technical perspective. However, it saddens me to see his drumming talent go to waste in this album as well as Define the Great Line. As technically marvelous as Aaron's drumming may be, it too, seems forced. If Spencer's screaming could be authentic, I'm sure that Aaron's drumming and Spencer's screaming would fit well. Sadly however, that hasn't happened in Define the Great Line or Lost in the Sound of Separation.
Continuing onto guitars. I've already said it--changing the tone of your guitar will not make you sound hardcore. It must be a combination of all the instruments in unison, as well as the vocals, which creates a "hard" sound. However, setting that aside, the guitar work seems very monotonous--just as it was in Define the Great Line. The guitaring does not pull you "into" the music, rather, it seems like it's just there for show. Take for example, the song "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (which Underoath covered in the album ¡Policia!: A Tribute to the Police), or "Reinventing Your Exit" (from They're Only Chasing Safety) the guitar work pulls you in and envelops you into the music, as the drumming and vocals also help to supplement that feeling. However, I didn't seem to be "reeled in" by the guitar work in this album. It seemed non-progressive and shallow, in my opinion.
After I finished listening to the album, I said to myself: "Okay, maybe it's because I just listened to it for the first time, maybe I need some time to let the music set in." And so I listened to several songs from the album a few times a day for a week. However, even after a week of trying to appreciate Underoaths' new album, I failed to find anything extraordinary within it. If I were to choose the few songs that I did find somewhat appealing, I would say these are: "Breathing In A New Mentality", "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures", and "Coming Down Is Calming Down". And even though these songs seemed to stand out among the other songs, they didn't satisfy my expectations for this album.
If you want to hear good metalcore/metal/hardcore/death metal, give these albums a listen:
Whoracle by In Flames.
The Jester Race by In Flames.
Shadows Are Security by As I Lay Dying.
Frail Words Collapse by As I Lay Dying.
The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused.
Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent by Refused.
Slaughter of the Soul by At the Gates.
Not comparing bands, just giving out suggestions for those who wish to listen to other bands with good music.
So with all this being said, Lost in the Sound of Separation is a disappointing album. With barely any memorable songs, riffs, or melodies, the album seems to have dissipated from my musical conscience within a few days. Underoath was a great band before Define the Great Line, and I thought that with Lost in the Sound of Separation they would return with some great hits, but I am left with an album composed of generic screaming and uninspired instrumental melodies.