Review Summary: This may be the peak of Underoath's mountain, but they've climbed long and hard to get here. Still if their progress has anything to show for its that its just as long of a way down before they reach a valley of mediocrity, or so we hope.
For each of my favorite genres there’s a specific album that I declare my flagship when treading the area. In discovering this world that we as the community of Sputnik recognize as music, I’ve discovered a vast array of artists that I’ve glorified, or found so grotesque I’ve gone out of my way to discourage others from. Now inside my home, both literally and figuratively, there sit the bands that I’ve invited into my life. While nothing remarkable I still do not deny their existence merely accepting them for what they have to offer. Only the chosen few reside in my bedroom, both literally and figuratively, and these are the bands that have impacted me in such a way that my sanity might as well depend on them. As of last year Underoath gave me a new reason to really pay attention to the burdened metalcore regime, joining the ranks of dredg
, and Chevelle
It began with Define the Great Line
and its visceral grasps on hooks and melodies, and brash lyrics exploiting the very concepts I too dwelt upon – meanings of life, faith, and humanity. Though it wasn’t until Lost In the Sound of Separation
that I actually paid attention and understood. No, not the meaning of life or its incumbents, but that there were others searching with a foundation less solid than my own. Still, in order for a record to become a classic it must exude two things those being depth and longevity, and you can’t have one without the other. So don’t go and give me a record with two good tracks and then a bunch of crap – Foo Fighters
. As well as you shouldn’t give me several over dramatic epics sounding all too similar and call it a concept record – Green Day
. Thankfully Underoath understands this apparently complicated task and presents a rare satisfying front to back listen.
Reason one for this record being an immense
upgrade over its predecessor is thanks to Spencer Chamberlain’s ridiculously improved vocals. His vocal deliverance had undoubtedly strengthened since the astoundingly weak display on TOCS
on DtGL, but they’d yet to materialize into something this magnificent. Listening to Emergency Broadcast: The End Is Near
you’ll notice his role has developed into the sole leader of the band as the instruments truly rely on him to carry a majority of the song. From the ambient chug basher intro with him growling out, “At the end of it all / We will be sold for parts / We will try to rebuild / Be we ate it all away
” to the several instances of progressive invoked metalcore moments; its solely his voice we rely to carry us through the end of the world. Still you won’t even need to hear the stand out vocal performance of the aforementioned song to acknowledge the new found confidence emulated by the front man. How about Breathing In A New Mentality
with its initial scare of over produced vocal effects before absolutely turning In Regards To Myself
on its @ss for most punishing first track. And whom do we have to thank for this? Spencer. “There’s been something, something else talking in my ear / When I speak it begins to decay / I’m not about to bury myself
Reason Two. It's brutal. Plain and simple, the record takes all of the crushing moments of DtGL and increases them tenfold. A Fault Line. A Fault of Line
hints at a sweeping melodic tune before Spencer grabs the realm, and the band spirals in and out of dissonant rhythm backed by a pummeling drum beat. Yet, its not until the outro that the band really show their teeth, with an alluding forty seconds of Aaron chanting at the bones it marks the build of one of the bands best breakdowns to date; “I stare at the wall / Watching my time float away / It’s all been a blur / And nothing will change / Well I was lying / This is defeat
”. And please don’t get me started on The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed
being arguably the bands most profound song to date since entering this “Golden Era” of theirs. A stampeding intro of thunderous drum blasts and dissonant vibrative riffs cradle the once again impressive Spencer Chamberlain as he agonizes over impeding trial screaming, “Dragged behind and trampled on / I can’t keep crawling at the jaws of hell… / Nothing to calm the nerve
Reason Three. The lyrics are about as perfect as it gets. Each track is presented as personal tribunal event, and yet have a haunting ability still resonate with the listener as if it’s their own. Aaron sings out best on We Are the Involuntary
about things everyone in the world has either been afflicted by or wondered themselves, “With hands in the air and love at our side / There’s gotta be something bigger here / With the beating in our throats and the tremble in our grips / This can’t be it
”. Its here we’re revealed that maybe everyone really does have the same fears; finally those who scour at even the thought of a hymn could maybe take the same steps as those searching for a meaning. “Let’s do this for each other / Let’s do this for truth / I give for you, you give for me
” instills the conviction of doing something for a reason bigger than yourself but doesn’t need to be one you can’t believe in, hence truth. They’re more darker Coming Down Is Calming Down
, they’re more deeper Anyone Can Dig A Hole But It Takes A Real Man To Call It Home
, and they’re certainly more relatable Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
The fourth and final reason is Aaron Gillespie. Performing a duel role of clean vocalist and amazingly underrated drummer, he is easily the backbone for the band. He provides some of the most intimate sections ever to be released from the genre on The Created Void
as he strips the track to the bone before gushing over the single guitar, “It’s all in my head / If you want you can look inside / There’s nothing but red / And the mess I’ve been
”. And the lead role is quickly changed hands for the ballad-esque reprieve that is Too Bright To See Too Loud To Hear
as Aaron again pours his heart out for the majority of the 4:30. Still the most impressive art to hear him produce comes from his beautiful stagnant ability on the drums. Kicking off the ear licking that is Breathing In A New Mentality
is Aaron with an uncomfortable drum loop before tripping into a feverish chorus of constant “Aaron Moments”. As mentioned before, The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed
would be quite uneventful if not for the continuous onslaught he provides.
It’s with all these elements that make this disc not only a substantial improvement over its precursor, but a staple for the rest of the genre gasping for life. They’re also the main reasons I latched onto this disc like I did; another being a man who was seemingly only interested in the guitar, ala Chevelle, here I was served a platter of bountiful ingredients and continually indulged in the stylistic approach with each one. Also around this time I grew tired of overly clichéd lines of, “I’m so sick
” or “I’m all alone, blah blah blah insert any Linkin Park lyric here_
”. Fortunately Underoath stepped in at just the right moment, and it was like being shown the ocean after staring at a puddle your whole life.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
This song is basically the epitome of Underoath with its orgasmic distortion and pummeling velocity. Starting with what could be mistook for a swarm of insects, ten seconds in and you won’t even realize you’re head first into the song. Sexy switch offs between Chamberlain and Gillespie make the rare chorus feature even that much more of a feat. It was this song that solidified this album for me. The unrelenting breakdowns couples the imagery just a bit too well, “While I sink to the bottom / I’ll sing it out as it fills with water / I hope I’ve done enough… / I’m worn out / I’m worn thin / I will never break through / Where have I been?
A Fault Line. A Fault of Mine
The first song to grow on me which a perfect sign of longevity, this song shows the LItSOS sound for what it is. Where DtGL focused more on melody and musical wholeness, this song and album reaches for the confines of the genre relying on ambient sound and effects to define the nature of the album. You can hear the disconnect throughout each song as it brings a new rawness to the band; ten to fifteen second gaps of nothing but noise are employed to captivate the listener. This requires a musical maturity needed from the listener now developing a whole new relationship from the outing.
The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed
Aside from the songs’ sheer brutality its beautifully melodic with Aaron spilling out lines of conviction for half its entirety, “Everything / Is leaving me wondering / I hate that I’m questioning / You’re everything
”. The best drumming is presented on this song as its mostly driven by Aaron but the string is easily held by Spencer with his new found range. We’re provided another excellent buildup to the breathtaking outro that stops just ahead of the edge cliff before taking a dive.
Breathing In A New Mentality
Alas, I’ll probably be yelled at for not including Too Bright To See
, but this song is unmatched on the album. From the guttural start by the dynamic guitar duo Timothy and James, to the constant start/stops of Aaron's drumming this song is a heart attack and then some. Generating more delectable lines like, “When I speak it begins to decay / I’m not about to bury myself / Oh God, my hands are shaking again
” its just a fraction of the escapade provided by the unstable Chamberlain; he sounds like he’ll break at any moment making the track that much more abrasive and unrelenting.