If you were a child of the early 2000’s emo and/or screamo scene, then you undoubtedly were a diehard Underoath fan.
Maybe it was the hooks of the atmospheric guitars. The smooth vocal play between Aaron and Spencer. The grandiose dynamics created by Tim and James, capped off by Grant’s thudding bass and Chris’ electronic contributions.
Whatever it was that pulled you in, the first time you heard Underoath’s “Reinventing Your Exit” you were captivated.
Fresh. Original. New. Catchy. Poppy; even though it wasn’t really supposed to be.
It was everything and more that the crooning side hair wielding, vacuum sealed pants wearing, emo kids wanted and needed!
I was one of them. Minus the daring hair and girl pants.
“They’re Only Chasing Safety” did it all, for all. It brought together the Fall Out Boy and Norma Jean fans. It tethered together some of the most memorable live shows I’ve ever seen. Underoath with The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Alexisonfire.
And every single time, Underoath killed it.
Drummer Aaron Gillespie threw his entire body into his kit. He relentlessly pounded the crap out of the skins, and a river of shrills and energy just rushed out from him into the crowd. Red/orange hair, constantly in motion.
The whole band were in perfect mismatched sync, and for every note, on every song… the crowd screamed.
Those were the days.
I’m not going to get too detailed on the catalogue. Underoath released five albums that changed the scene and still stand the test of time and the changes in musical trends. You know them.
So, here in 2018; 16 years after you first were stricken by their sound,Underoath are giving us a brand new record. Does it give you the same feeling? Is it as dynamic and relentlessly heavy as their earlier groundbreaking albums? Does Aaron’s high pitched vocals accentuate the pop breakdowns, while Spencer’s screams roll out the distortion in a river of anger and beauty?
Underoath have a lot riding on this release. Following up Disambiguation and Lost In the Sound of Separation will be difficult. If they want to keep their current fans, and gain new ones, then their 2018 effort better be something special. What started in 2004, and catapulted them with 2006’s Define The Great Line; well let’s just say that I highly doubt they will top their previous success…
However, it is very worth taking a look…
The first track that they released to us was “On My Teeth.”
I personally thought it was very bland for Underoath.
Considering what they have done in the past, this song just lacks so much of what Underoath used to have.
Unparalleled atmospherics and a gutsy metal drive that made their songs so addictive; this song does not have that. It is not heavy. It is not dynamic. It sounds like an average punk rock song synthed up and electronically warped into something …. well, different.
And where the crap are the drums??? You have Aaron Gillespie! I can barely hear him! Don’t tell me that is a drum machine? With the synth being so heavy, it is kind of hard to tell.
The actual single that was released early, with a terrible music video, is called “Rapture.”
“Rapture” is their attempt to make the billboard charts and get played on your local rock station alongside Nickelback and Creed.
I just cannot get into this.
As I listened to the rest of the album the Thursday night of it’s hugely anticipated release, I sat in disappointment. It’s not just the fact that the vocals are insufficient and they’ve added what seems to be attention-seeking profanity. It’s really the whole vibe of the new Underoath.
If you’ve been a fan for a long time, then this record will not be what you may have expected.
First of all, on the opener, “It Has To Start Somewhere”, we get the feeling that we are about to embark on a new version of “Young And Aspiring”. It’s a heavy and soft version of a song written by a band that is one half metal and one half pop rock.
The vocals are there in the first minute…speedy rhythms and a nice heaviness. A good pace and a good structure, it’s actually the only song on the album that sounds anything like oldUnderoath
“Wake Me” is boring. Spencer’s “Whoa-oh-oooh” vocals are fragile and lacklustre. Nothing to really be desired here. I can tune to 106.7 FM any time of the day and hear this kinda stuff.
“Bloodlust” … um… kinda sounds like Sleepwave (Spencer Chamberlain’s other band)? Not a bad song. Not a terribly written piece. It just does not help us older fans feel any new appreciation towards this band.
I also need to mention that Erase Me is a very synth heavy album.
The guitars and drums seem to fade too much into the background, which is really a monumentally bad and terrible production decision; when you have players of their talent, you should not hide them. This album could have been made mostly by Chris Dudley (synth/keyboard), and Spencer, with the rest of the parts being delivered via DropBox. Maybe a drum machine too?
“Sink With You” is actually kind of heavy. It’s got a bit of flair. I don’t love it. You might and that’s cool.
The chorus and melody would be cooler if there was more forward present guitar, and less dub step garbage.
“Ihateit” is a melodic song that takes a pretty safe route musically. Nothing too spectacular if compared to say, “Paper Lung.” I’m not going to say I dislike the song, but I know after a few listens, the repetition of it will cause me to not listen.
Tracks 8, 9, and 10 take on various forms and sounds. There are some noteworthy moments, especially on “I Gave Up” but I don’t have the energy to point them out because this album gives me no energy.
There is nothing grabbing me and dynamically holding my attention; the way that the thundering track “Moving For The Sake of Motion” does every time I play it!
If you follow Spencer Chamberlain on Instagram, you’ll see this caption under a picture of him:
“Finally #eraseme is out TODAY! I put it all out there on this one, the most honest lyrics I’ve ever recorded. I was completely transparent with you because I HOPE by being honest it might make someone else feel better in their own journey/struggle. I love all of you. Thanks for listening. Xo.”
I respect that. That is what music is all about. He gets that and I love that. I may not love all that this new Underoath album is, but at least it is honest and transparent.
My only real problem with Erase Me is that they deviated from the true originality that they created on their three classic albums: They’re Only Chasing Safety, Define The Great Line, and Lost In The Sound of Separation.
You may disagree, but when you almost completely forget that Aaron Gillespie is even on this record, I think that is a mistake.
I personally prefer his clean vocals over Spencer’s, and I really really miss Spencer’s screaming and growling!
Bottom line: Erase Me is not an Underoath record.
Same band name, because that is what everyone knows them as, but if I am being honest, this sounds a lot more like the second Sleepwave record.
Oh well. It is what it is. Bands evolve and in that evolution we get changes that every fan will not jive with, and some will.
Screamo is officially dead, and Underoath get that.
It is a new era for alternative music, and many bands are exploring new sounds. Each fan will have to decide for themselves if it works or fails.
Music is not objective. It is all up for free interpretation.
Keep listening and keep loving.
This Canadian grew up in the great state of Montana, so naturally punk and hardcore music served as a proper soundtrack to his early life. Now living in the arctic tundra he enjoys vinyl collecting, bearding, Canadian brew and long walks on the beach he makes up in his mind.