Review Summary: New artwok by Jacob Bannon? Check, bonus songs? Check, really lacklustre music? Check.
They’re Only Chasing Safety, a peculiar title and yet somewhat apt at describing the sound on this album. Let’s face it with exception of Underoath’s recent albums and their second ep their music has been rather mediocre. Unfortunately whilst earlier recordings like Act of Depression and The Changing of Times weren’t so much as bad as they were poorly done, Chasing Safety is a perfect representation of the word “failure”.
As with all albums featuring a change in their front-man the burden was on the band to produce something that would put the old fans of Dallas Taylor in their place. But that didn’t work out too well, in an attempt to maintain the sound of earlier records whilst making something new Spencer Chamberlain focused on screaming like Taylor and adding his own brand of clean singing to the mix.
The problem with this is that Spencer Chamberlain is not Dallas Taylor nor is he the same type of singer and the major let down is that whilst trying to imitate a vocalist he has little in common with vocally his actual ability which is showcased on later works goes completely to waste. Another issue with this album seems to be the lack of flow, not so much in the cohesiveness of the record but in the cohesiveness of the band. Having gone through their biggest line up change from their previous album to this it seems obvious that the band members did not see eye to eye at the time of recording.
The simplified song structures and focus on making catchy pop numbers over interesting songs is so blatantly obvious that it boggles the mind as to what was going on in the studio. In fact the biggest let down on the album is the sheer lack of technical prowess. Underoath has always been known to have an incredible amount of raw ability instrumentally and yet with this it’s as though the band regressed to a group of children who’ve just mastered the power chord. Guitar work isn’t the only area at fault, Aaron Gillespie’s drumming has often been a driving force in the band’s music, so the watered down baby-beats that are present come off as a really disappointing effort.
Vocally the album is by far the weakest representation of the current line-up's vocals. Spencer lacks the depth he has since developed and Aaron sounds rather weakened, not to mention monotonous. The only member who gives a consistent performance throughout the album is Chris Dudley who is quite the master at creating interesting electronic sounds to accompany the other instruments without coming off as a cheesy attempt to sound original. Although Dudley doesn’t create the dissonant static atmospheres of Lost in the Sound of Separation or the epic-journey of Define the Great Line, he is still quite impressive.
Another weak point of the album is the lyrics. Although they’ve never been a band for fantastic lyrics the lyrics on this album are incredibly generic, lines like;
“Well, look who's dying now slit wrists for sleepingwith the girl next door”
One can’t help but feel a sensation of nausea, the lyrics are just pathetic especially when compared to the band’s earlier and later work. It’s not to the say the lyrics bring the album down greatly but combined with the other large faults of the album it just adds to the disappointment the listener feels.With all this said there is one area I’d like to focus on specifically;
Special Edition Bonus Tracks:
This version of the album contains four tracks that were absent from the original release and the sad thing is they’re better than anything on the regular track list. “I’ve Got Ten Friends And A Crowbar That Says You Aren’t Gonna Do Jack” bears a similarity to Define the Great Line opener “In Regards to Myself” which is both a positive and negative because clearly the band were capable of making music of a higher calibre than the majority of the record. Similarly the other bonus tracks wouldn’t be too out of place on Define and they benefit the album well.
Overall the album is somewhat lacklustre, it seems that the band had difficulties coming together as a unit on this album and these issues transfer over into the album very obviously. The lack of cohesiveness on both individual tracks and the entire album makes for a rather uncomfortable listen. The bonus tracks are just that, a bonus and they make up for some of the album’s faults but even four good tracks aren’t enough to pull this album out of the musical tar pit it seems to be stuck in.