Review Summary: Tonight Alive uses the vantage point provided by where they've been to forge ahead with one of their best records to date.
I've heard it said it's both a pleasure and a moral duty to speak one's mind. I've certainly taken that to heart. I love
to write. It's enjoyable and often therapeutic, especially for someone like myself, who grew up with few friends to articulate whatever went on in my mind. Occasionally, I like to revisit some of the first reviews I ever published on this site and yes, they are quite flawed. Among them is a review I wrote for Tonight Alive's 2013 album, The Other Side
. I actually wrote and published that review the morning after my high school graduation. I thought the album's summery, youthful energy was a fitting way to ring in the next chapter of my life. Since then, life has become a balancing act, as I contend with the gravity of the world in front of me, while still enjoying my youth while I can. It's exciting to see, especially following the vacuous mess that was Limitless
, that Tonight Alive has accomplished a similar feat with the release of their new album, Underworld
isn't the worst
album ever by any stretch. That record did yield some solid cuts, including the infectious single "How Does it Feel." But elsewhere throughout that record, the band's talents were poorly and criminally underutilized, particularly in the case of frontwoman Jenna McDougall and her godly
voice. Thankfully, the choppy synth washes that polluted that record are, for the most part, dead and gone. Traces and appendages coming off of that album may still find themselves scattered across the band's thirteen-track debut on Hopeless Records, but the group is largely back to doing what they do best. The instrumentals rip through several tracks on Underworld
with ease and Jenna McDougall clenches the microphone to put forth yet another incredible vocal performance.
"Book of Love" opens the record by opting for airy synths and basslines to dominate Underworld
's opening passages. This track plays like a Limitless
outtake, and although Jenna McDougall tries to make it work, her talents are drowned by auto-tune and overly glossy production for the majority of the track. "Temple" is the perfect recourse, however. The instrumentals come back hitting hard with much more force and Jenna takes advantage with strong vocals. The tepid energy of "Disappear" is backed up by guest vocals from PVRIS' Lynn Gunn and it creates a perfect midpoint between where Tonight Alive has been and where they're going.
"The Other" sees strong vocals from Jenna and the instrumentals aren't terrible. It would be nice, however, to hear more audible guitar work from Whakaio Taahi, who is making his final recorded appearance with the band with this album. Taahi does go out on a high note in the form of "In My Dreams" and "Crack My Heart", which is hands down, the best song this group has ever
cut. The instrumentals are stronger than ever, there's even a breakdown towards the end and Jenna McDougall puts forth the vocal performance both of her career and of a lifetime. The band's signature pop punk sound makes the most triumphant of returns with "Crack My Heart" and Jenna McDougall's vocal performance makes the track Grammy worthy by my estimation.
"Just for Now" features plenty of lead guitar from Taahi and Jake Hardy, which helps to compensate for the abundance of wintery snyths that cover large swaths of this track. Jenna McDougall doesn't exactly captivate vocally during the chorus, but it's passable and she showcases great control and rhythm on the bridge of the track. "Waiting for the End" features strong drumming from Matt Best and elegant vocals from Jenna, while "Looking for Heaven" and "My Underworld" close out the album strongly, the latter featuring Corey Taylor of Slipknot.
bridges the gap between the Tonight Alive that made infectious hooks and hard hitting grooves sacrosanct on What Are You So Scared Of
and The Other Side
with the band that traded in its emotion-driven talents for vacuous pop rock on Limitless
. Even with the departure of Whakaio Taahi, the band is still very much in upward trajectory once again. Underworld
is a strong effort, using the vantage point provided by the band's past to help them plant a fork in the road ahead. "Crack My Heart" stands out alone as not only an album highlight, but the song of this band's career as well. Other hard hitters make Underworld
a success by all accounts, an album that will surely keep the band's future as bright and optimistic as their music.