Review Summary: An ever evolving/changing band finally achieves consistency, Ø (Disambiguation) proves to be their strongest record even losing such a significant member.
With their only remaining founding member Aaron Gillespie leaving the band the rest of the guys prove that Underoath is the whole essence, every member departure/change made in the past and in the present happened for a good reason. In fact, between TOCS and DTGL there were absolutely no changes, is the exact same band with a totally different sound so that proves also that these guys are always trying to create totally new albums, each album is its own piece of work so no wonder this time we’re getting a new sound.
The drumming department is taken by Daniel Davison (ex Norma Jean) so yeah, the drumming technique seems to be more diverse, maybe a little more technical but less rhythmic, still, not entirely different than Aaron’s maybe because Davison has already collaborated with Underoath in the past so there’s a musical connection between him and the rest of the band.
That already covered how then this departure affects the band? Well, obviously the vocals. Since TOCS the band seems to be relying in Gillespie’s voice changing into a more pop/punk/hardcore style, but thankfully that changed in DTGL. Now is important to say that their last album LITSOS is mostly conquered by Chamberlain’s vocal efforts, so it seemed that they were heading in the right direction and Ø proves him covering this area on his own and doing it to a great extent, the screaming is as great as always but the clean vocals sound like a mix between Cove Reber (ex-Saosin vocalist) and Chino Moreno (do I need to introduce this guy?) giving the album a promised darker vibe and this is what I love about it, don’t get me wrong I love Aaron’s voice but it took away somehow the darker overall feel of both past albums (clearly relevant on this one).
That said, his vocals added pleasant ambience to their past records, finding the band relying this aspect on keyboards and effects this time around with the strong single “In Division” and the electronic influenced “Driftwood”. But to this “feel” the bass adds some depth too, something that is forgotten in other Metalcore/Hardcore bands, instead of focusing in breakdowns and screaming moments Ø’s musical objective seems more focused on consistent bass “Catch Myself Catching Myself”, “Paper Lung” and “Vacant Mouth” (containing also intense melodic guitars) and they seem to center also on metal-ish raw guitars “A Divine Eradication” “My Deteriorating Incline”.
Other aspect totally accomplished is the lyrical part, the lyrics seem to be according with the music, impacting and they seem to be more personal also, on “In Division”: “God! It's caving in on me/I feel it watching/But no one seems to care anymore/Empty I think of a way out/'Cause when I breathe in there's no relief/I can't believe this I can't believe this/My mind is starting to turn on me!” Chamberlain seems to be trapped in his own actions, feeling alone he wants to get out of this darkness then claiming on “A Divine Eradication”: “Where is my fix?/Where is my fix?”
Personally, I feel related to this kind of issues of desperation so maybe that's my main hook with the album but also note that I started liking the band since the direction they took with DTGL so lyrically and musically this is somehow what I was expecting from them, only a thousand times better.
In conclusion this album is the best they have done, it surpasses their past efforts by far, it is constructed to appreciate it as a whole, no song is meant to be listened separately, the chaotic and epic moments are tossed with the melodic ones in between parts of songs, there are only two almost entirely melodic pieces “Paper Lung” and “In Completion” and the already mentioned ambient piece “Driftwood” working similarly like “Sālmarnir” in DTGL. Probably not everyone will be thrilled as I am, the change finds these songs less catchy and the album seems a lot more consistent than ever but there’s really no significant criticism found in here.