Review Summary: Praise thee ...
Having recently released their sixth full length album Lost in the Sound of Separation
to mostly critical acclaim, and before that the highly regarded Define the Great Line
, Underoath have seemingly gone from strength to strength. Their current sound is unabashedly metalcore in the vein of Botch or Norma Jean mixed with a more atmospheric and ‘epic’ drive. However, it was 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety
that had really thrust Underoath into the limelight, mixing a post-hardcore sound with a very much pop approach. It seems almost strange then that before these records Underoath was almost a completely different entity; much more hard hitting and heavy, but also more overtly Christian (more on that later). Deriving their name from ‘somewhere in the Bible’, Underoath formed in 1998 in former vocalist Dallas Taylor’s bedroom somewhere in Tampa, Florida (all whilst still in high school). A year later, having signed to Takehold Recordings, the band released their debut album Act of Depression
The first thing you notice when listening to this record is the sheer length of some of the songs. Only containing six actual songs and one ‘hidden track’, this still manages to be the longest of all Underoath’s releases - clocking in at just under 56 minutes. However, despite the length of the songs (all between 5 and 10 minutes), this isn’t a progressive record in anyway. In fact, the music is all rather repetitive, hardly ‘progressing’ at all and this is, in fact, one of the albums greatest flaws. When the album contains songs of a certain length it should always switch things around a bit or risk losing the attention of the listener, as is unfortunately the case here. There simply isn’t enough variation. Each and every song follows a pretty much similar formula, with riffs being recycled by the bucket load.
The music itself is much more ‘brutal’ than Underoath’s most recent releases. It is aggressive, heavy and definitely metal. In fact, although hardly innovative, this record was (and is), very much an anomaly in the current metalcore wave. Rather than the traditional scream verse, sing chorus with pretty melodies scattered through the overall metal attack; Underoath here displayed an absolute metal assault on the listener. This is heavy-as-fu
ck. Not death metal heavy, but a lot more crushing than the majority of the metalcore scene. Dallas Taylor screams his way through the whole album, only occasionally do we hear the use of clean vocals, normally in the form of ‘emotional’ gang vocals about ‘love’ and/or ‘Jesus’.
The album begins with some sort of creepy laughter before charging headfirst into its battle on the listeners senses. As I previously mentioned the guitars are pretty dull here, whilst vocally the band take some getting used to. Dallas’ screams are far from accessible, sounding sometimes almost black metal-esque, although always noticeably a bit on the poor side. It is Gillespie’s drumming that stands out most musically, with some nice fills and improvisation throughout the record; providing the only variation on the album. The production is suitably tinny for such an intense record and, depending on the listener, can increase its power or act as a complete turn off. Lyrically, Act of Depression
focuses on pain, emotion and of course, Jesus H. Christ. For example:
I will not accept this evil anymore
I never thought of who I hurt or I never tried to look for the good
I'm sorry for whoever I hurt, it's not easy to look back on my life,
and know I did not know Christ
For now I live in a real hell
I wish I had another chance... then I would live my life with love
In fact, this is a very Christ orientated record. The band themselves dedicated the album to ‘victims of rape and suicide, child molestation, people who are broken hearted, people who just can't handle life anymore and just have to fall on their knees every night and cry
’. It’s all very touching. The hidden track itself, for the majority of the nine minutes features Corey Steger (lead guitarist) talking about receiving Christ, becoming a Christian whilst in the background we have Aaron Gillespie singing softly over an acoustic guitar. Afterward is the actual song, ‘Spirit of a Living God’, sung by Corey Steger. It’s possibly advisable then, that if you dislike strongly Christian music you give this a miss.
In all, Act of Depression
is not an overly bad record; in fact it is fairly average. It is brought down by its overly long songs with not enough variation to keep the listener interested, resulting in yours truly - by some point midway through track 3 - having fallen into a state of stagnation. It would be fair to say there is little replay value here. On the other hand, there are some positives to be gleaned from the album. It was, as I earlier mentioned, a pretty unique metalcore release, and also shows how it all began for Underoath, and you can definitely see the progression they‘ve made from their rather humble beginnings. Worth a listen for fans of the band.