There is truly no denying Aaron Gillespie’s love of writing, recording and performing music. Even after his time as drummer for legendary post-hardcore act Underoath came to an end, as did his alt-rock side project The Almost, the Clearwater, Florida native has kept himself busy as the touring drummer for rock powerhouse Paramore, along with a smattering of other projects. While researching for this very review, I found that he had released another worship album just last year.
Thus, without proper context, Gillespie’s latest offering, Out of the Badlands, could potentially be labeled as lazy. Featuring only three original songs, the release largely consists of cover tracks and re-imagined songs from Gillespie’s past. However, one listen to Out of the Badlands makes clear that these songs were anything but mailed in.
Seeing as how Gillespie was a founding member and an integral songwriter for my favorite band of all time, he had me at “Underoath.” It’s true: Out of the Badlands features stark new versions of “A Boy Brushed Red… Living in Black and White” and “Reinventing Your Exit” – two fan favorites. Once a fast-paced screamo anthem, “A Boy Brushed Red” now finds itself as a patient acoustic track, with Gillespie’s plea of “This is where we both go wrong” sounding more painful than ever.
That’s what makes Badlands so captivating – even though we’ve heard many of these songs before, there’s an added depth and grief to be found in the wake of divorce. It’s fascinating to hear songs written over a decade ago find a new powerful meaning. The three original tracks on the album make clear where this new influence has come from.
“Raspberry Layer Cake” has a throwback country vibe with Gillespie using a deep raspy delivery to drop the sorrowful lines, “When everything you have is taken away / Like a lie on your wedding day”. By the time the album comes to a close with the journal entry-esque “You Don’t Love Me Anymore”, the pace has increased significantly, even if there is still little solace to be found. Even so, Gillespie’s voice once again sounds familiar on the soaring chorus as he extends his range to resolve the raw melody.
Other highlights on Badlands come in the form of a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, existing as a stripped down slow burn. The best of Gillespie’s The Almost reinventions is “No I Don’t”, transforming from an explosive pop rock track to an indie rock song highlighted by the same infectious melody. Both “Say This Sooner” and “Southern Weather” fail to differ enough from the originals in any remarkable to warrant their inclusion here.
All in all, Out of the Badlands serves as a time capsule showcasing some of Gillespie’s greatest hits, while also providing as a salve that surely proved therapeutic during the recording process. These new revisions give an insight into the artist as a weathered adult and oddly stand strong alongside his new entries. With this effort, Gillespie appears primed to close another chapter and embark on the next stage of his continually ambitious career.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.