Review: Anberlin – Silverline

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We’ve reached the time of year where I begin to put my favorite Anberlin album into heavy rotation. There’s something about the back half of summer that just makes Dark is the Way, Light is a Place sound perfect. It’s an album that marked a sonic change for one of the aughts most revered rock bands, a notion that aligns perfectly with the feelings of coming change that are in the air this time of year.

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You can buy or stream Silverline on Apple Music

Over the course of what we thought were the band’s final three albums, Anberlin leaned hard into new territory, experimenting heavily with influences that they had previously sprinkled throughout their nearly bulletproof discography. By the time Lowborn arrived in 2014 as the band’s swan song, I couldn’t help but wish that there was another chapter or two to explore.

But as we’ve come to find in this scene, nothing is ever really over, and Anberlin is no exception. After a smattering of live performances in 2018 and 2019, the band embarked on a livestream series spanning their full catalogue before finally giving fans a taste of new tunes late last year with “Two Graves”. And now, Silverline, the band’s new EP and first proper release in eight years is here.

I’ll sheepishly admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of “Two Graves” upon its release, but here as the opener to Silverline, the track is kind of perfect. What isn’t quite apparent within each of these tracks alone, is that as a whole, the five songs serve as a fine blend of Anberlin’s past three albums. It’s in the bridge and outro of tracks like “Two Graves” and “Nothing Lost” that you can truly feel the rich textures of sound that the members of Anberlin can so brilliantly build. Credit to Christian McAlhaney and Joseph Milligan for bringing their A-game throughout.

The smooth intro of “Nothing Lost” is everything I’ve been missing from this band. Anberlin have always had a knack for implementing anthemic elements of decades past into their songs, and this song simply soars, particularly once the chorus hits with Stephen Christian singing, “Say nothing is ever gone / Stay here tonight / Stand down, you’re never lost / On the right path, wrong road”. By the time the bridge arrives, the rest of the band is ready to bring the house down.

Perhaps it’s because of this opening one-two punch that the next track, “Body Language”, seems like a slight letdown. It’s a stark change of pace and tone that continues into “Asking”. In a recent interview with Chorus.fm, Christian mentioned that two Silverline tracks were originally Anchor & Braille songs that were held back because he “heard them sonically and lyrically as Anberlin.” It’s easy to see the connection, although the back half of “Asking” begins to crescendo into something familiar to the best parts of Lowborn.

Silverline’s final track, “Circles” is classic Anberlin closer material, full of energy, emotion and a well-deserved sonic payoff that leaves you wanting more. If we’re lucky, maybe this is a new beginning for a band that never really felt like it was ready to call it quits in the first place. For nearly two decades, Anberlin has been a mainstay in a rock scene that felt like its walls couldn’t quite hold what the band was capable of building. Silverline is a worthy new entry into a catalogue full of delightful and unexpected twists and turns.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

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I originally wasn’t going to write anything about the new Emery album, Rub Some Dirt On It. Anyone who has followed my pieces here on It’s All Dead knows my love for Emery and I think I’ve written or talked about almost every one of their albums in the five years since I started contributing here. I just kind of felt I had nothing new to add to the conversation. But where I was lacking inspiration, Emery stepped up and filled in the blanks for me.

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You can buy or stream Rub Some Dirt On It on Apple Music

Rub Some Dirt On It is Emery’s hardest hitting album to date. I think one of the privileges of being a band for 20 years is being able to drop the filter and really lean into the art you want to make. Over the past few years, the scene has often been up in arms over the members of Emery’s podcasts, or artistic choices with album art, or the shift in their lyrical content. A few years ago, they released a song called “People Always Ask If We’re Gonna Cuss in an Emery Song” for God’s sake. They’re basically an ouroboros now, just devouring the criticism and turning it into more incredible and thought-provoking art than ever before. Just when you think it’s quiet on the Emery front, they release a single like “I Don’t Know You At All”, and you’re sucked right back in. If Emery has anything going for them 20 years into their career, it’s their talent for constantly staying in the back of the scene’s mind.

For Rub Some Dirt On It, I wrote off the title as an uber-masculine dude-fest at first, but Emery is at their most vulnerable here. The songs detail church abuse (“Stranger”), the way faith falters over the years (“You Stole God From Me”), and just the regular old guy/gal songs we know and love from South Carolina’s post-hardcore darlings (“You Said Enough”). And just in case we get too overwhelmed or in our feelings over it, they end the album with “Lovely Lady”, a complete turn-around musically, but a cool picture of just how well they mesh as a band, and a fitting closer to a very deep and personal album.

The album has some of Emery’s most interesting instrumentation, and more cutting lyrics than even in their edgy era when they were young. The 20+ years together have only tightened their sound and refined their artistic presence. They were a force to be reckoned with in the scene when they began, and they’re even more of a force now.

The band recorded this album in one take on a 2-hour livestream spectacular, and other than some minor tweaks here and there for recording’s sake, gave us the album as it was originally performed. I’ve said this before, but Emery really took the independent release format by the horns and completely flipped the script. Every time they’ve released something in their indie era, it’s better and fresher than what they did before. It’s almost like they challenge themselves to try something new every album cycle, and we’re privileged enough to come along for the ride.

5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Valleyheart – Heal My Head

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Well it’s time, folks. Time to talk more about an album I haven’t been able to shut up about: Valleyheart’s Heal My Head. It’s finally out in the world, and it’s just what I’ve needed. This is an album perfect for spring and summer, and it is the perfect offering to usher us into sunnier days.

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You can buy or stream Heal My Head on Apple Music

What drew me to Valleyheart initially is their lyrical honesty and fresh take on the alt genre. Their first album, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved, hit me deeply in a way only a kid who grew up in New England churches can get hit. In a part of the country affectionately known by other religious areas as the “frozen chosen,” what Valleyheart had to say about church and the way that kind of upbringing tosses you into adulthood with little else but questions really resonated with me.

Their new album, Heal My Head, feels like defrosting. The sounds are lighter, the chords are major, and it’s all around giving me a chance to catch my breath. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Klein and the guys have focused on time, and the way it ebbs and flows. We get songs about their success, songs about hoping for more, songs about friendship. There’s something here for everyone.

From the initial notes of “Birth”, a soft entrance through the door of this house Valleyheart built, we are pushed into the lead single, “The Numbers”. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year thus far, and a great representation of what we can expect here from the rest of this piece. This song is about Spotify stats at its core, but it really is about more than that: It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a song about gratitude. 

“Warning Signs” is the most different track, a very pop heavy song that was instantly a favorite for me. It’s catchy, and it breaks up the album just enough to keep things interesting. I fell head over heels for their harder rock sound, but tracks like this, along with “Back and Forth” and “Vampire Smile” are reminders that this band can do whatever they want and make it sound incredible, while keeping it congruent with the rest of what they’re trying to bring forth.

I love this album more every time I listen to it. Each time there’s something new for me to find or to think about. There truly are no highs or lows here. Every track has been chosen and placed with the steady hand of a master, and everything fits together like the pieces of the clock in the album art. The album is filled with joie de vivre. As I’ve spent time with it, I’m struck more and more of how this came at the perfect time for me. I am continually in awe of when things in my life completely sync up with a band’s releases, and this album has already begun to feel like home to me.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new band to obsess over. 2013 began my love for From Indian Lakes, in 2015 came Pianos Become the Teeth, 2020 brought Gleemer. 2021 up to now and far into the future has brought me Valleyheart. A band close to home and now close to my heart and soul. Heal My Head is an album that will stay with me for a while, to say the least. It feels like coming up for air.

5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Harry Styles – Harry’s House

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It’s no surprise that Harry Styles chose to open his newest album Harry’s House with a jazzy, larger than life track. “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” is the perfect opener for this latest iteration of Harry’s talent, and was an immediate fan favorite. It fits in well with his past discography as well. Is Harry becoming…predictable?

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You can buy or stream Harry’s House on Apple Music

“As It Was” starts with a piece of a voicemail from Harry’s goddaughter: “Come on Harry, we want to say good night to you!” In the video, this plays as he is seemingly stuck behind a door, and the song itself is about shutting himself out from everyone. It’s the closest we get to true self expression here, and even though it’s a great track for radio, it’s a risky set of lyrics to base everyone’s initial opinion of an album on. Some could say it follows suit from “Sign of the Times”, which is nothing short of gut-wrenching even (and especially) now, with its use of melancholia to pull us in.

What shocks me most about this new album is the amount of references to substances. Cocaine has at least three mentions and it’s clear he’s had a struggle with alcohol as well. Gone are the days of a carefree Harry singing about treating people with kindness or a girl who he wants to bring home to his mom. It seems these past few years have taken their toll on him, and it shows. He hides it pretty well behind the synths and harmonies, and callbacks to 70’s arena rock, but it’s there nevertheless.

Other than glimpses here and there, not much is said here about how Harry’s personal life is going, given the title of the album. Mentions are made of him and his lover riding bikes in New York (“Daylight”), and making breakfast (“Keep Driving”). 

I do love this album. It feels carefree, and will be a summer soundtrack for most of us, surely. The production is perfection, something we’ve come to expect from him. What I think has been missing from Harry’s career as a whole is intimacy. He talks a lot about his experiences in therapy, most recently in his interview with Zane Lowe, but that doesn’t seem to translate to his bodies of work. I truly wonder whether there will be a time when we get a softer, more personal album from Harry, and whether he will stop concealing himself behind power pop.

Harry’s House is a misleading title. It leads us to believe he will finally let us in, finally give us a real, genuine taste of who he is and who he is becoming. But, like his past releases, he sings so little about himself that he seemingly lets us in the foyer only to say, “Thank you so much for coming, hope you can come again soon!” before ushering us out and away from getting too close to him.

4/5

Photo by Lillie Eiger

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Florence and the Machine – Dance Fever

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I always have trouble figuring out how to open a review, especially when the body of work speaks for itself and anything I add won’t be any more enlightening, maybe even less so. I almost never feel this way more than when I think of Florence Welch. A startling force to be reckoned with in the music world. She stands like justice above it all, with the past in one of her scales and modernity in the other. With Dance Fever, she first uses her sword to rip away her blindfold, and then ours.

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You can buy or stream Dance Fever on Apple Music

Never am I more anticipatory of a release cycle than one of Florence’s. Her attention to detail and obsession over the visual arts in combination to her musical craft are second to none, and Dance Fever is no different. From billboards that look like Renaissance paintings from a museum wall to a series of music videos telling us exactly what she wants us to glean, Florence spares no emotional expense to bring us into her world.

The album begins with Florence being torn between two lifestyles: domesticity and the quietness it brings, or the energy of being on the stage and creating new life with her words. “King” was the first single and I mentioned it in a past Queue It Up. I bring it up here because in tandem with the rest of the singles it provides a personal look to Florence’s recent struggles, but in the context of the album it is a tale of womanhood in a broader spectrum. When she lets loose at the end, it’s a nod to any woman who has ever been frustrated by whether she should settle for a life of nurturing, or to keep growing the thing inside of her that longs for freedom and the desire to run from anything that will tie her down. 

It ends with “Morning Elvis” and her having made her decision through song. Throughout, she sings of feeling like she is at once too much and not enough. She sings of old times at shows and cutting her teeth on her own career. She sings of traveling and feeling big feelings and dealing with her addiction on her own. She sings of being strong and being weak and being alone and yet when she is feeling love she feels uncomfortable. She contains multitudes, as do we all.

I think the album as a whole is a lament on years lost to time. Maybe for some that is through the pandemic that prevented us from being as close to normalcy as we wish, and for others it is through choices that have taken them far away from where they thought they could or should be by now. I know for me I feel at 25 I should feel more secure in where I am and where I am headed. It’s comforting to know someone like Florence, who exudes pure confidence in her stage presence, struggles with the same idea.

Lyrically, this is a call back to Lungs and Ceremonials, where she spins her words into gold from ages ago –  even calling a track Cassandra”, a woman from Greek myth whose curse was telling the truth but never being believed. I think it is telling that we hear a song like this from Florence. She has been singing  about the same thing for years, songs of bettering society and taking care of nature and finding the worth in ourselves, only for the world to sink deeper and deeper. 

Back in 2018, when Florence’s last album released, none of us could have foreseen that we would be stuck in time for almost three years. Months and months of not being able to personally partake in art has taken its toll on artists and listeners alike. I am certainly not the same person who put up a piece on High as Hope. Even the title is hard to bear, because hope feels so far away these days. But if High as Hope was Florence at her most demure, an ode to where we have been, then Dance Fever is an ode to where we are going. Nowhere but up.

4/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Wallows – Tell Me That It’s Over

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Wallows is back with their sophomore offering, Tell Me That It’s Over. They dove even deeper into the stoner rock/Britpop mix that made me fall in love with them a couple of years ago, but for me, this newer album seems to be a step backward rather than a leap ahead.

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You can buy or stream “Tell Me That It’s Over” on Apple Music

It starts off promisingly with “Hard to Believe” and first single “I Don’t Want to Talk”. This is the Wallows we know and love; energetic, youthful tracks. The album as a whole though sounds like a continuation of Nothing Happens, while losing the punch some of those past songs packed. I feel like they definitely put their best foot forward with the singles they released, as opposed to how those play out across the album as a whole.

I think the problem I have here is not that I don’t like this album, but I just like Nothing Happens so much more. Even though a lot of the vibes and lyricism here are similar, it’s lacking a certain something. I think it feels more like a predecessor to the perfection that their last album was, and so it feels a little bit out of order to me. The sounds here are mellower and laid back, and that’s a weird shift from the harder hitting stuff I’m used to.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Tell Me That It’s Over is bad, it’s just a different direction. I appreciate some of the more 80s-esque synths and one of my all-time favorite tracks from the band, “At the End of the Day” is from this album. I feel like this could be their Pinkerton, where they really decided to go with what they felt like writing rather than continuing in the vein that brought them the majority of their popularity. Tracks like “Marvelous” are just kind of a step away from what I’ve come to expect. They do have a knack for writing a closing track, and “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure” is a heck of a closer. “My life’s going by / But it’s just begun” is one of those lines that sticks with you for a long time.

This album is definitely built for a live show experience, and I’m bummed that I still haven’t been able to catch them live. The pandemic forced a refund of my tickets last time, and this tour has sold out so quickly I never even got a chance to look at tickets. And this is to their credit –  they’re a talented group of guys who have a tight sound and know what they want from their art.

I am always partial to a band’s previous releases until their newest has a chance to grow on me, and that’s no different here. Tell Me That It’s Over is a bouncy, colorful album, but for me it lacks a lot of the body that Nothing Happens had.

3.5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Mitski – Laurel Hell

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Mitski is back with Laurel Hell, a hard hitting album about capitalism, heartbreak, and the death of our youth and culture as we know it. Mitski surprised all of us and none of us at the same time when she announced a hiatus after the release of 2018’s Be The Cowboy. On one hand, she seemed at the peak of her career with her hit single “Nobody” booming from countless speakers. On the other, as seasoned Mitski fans know, she always seems a bit dissatisfied with where she is in life. We wondered whether she would truly be gone forever, leaving us with five albums and a Mitski-shaped hole in our hearts.

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You can buy or stream Laurel Hell on Apple Music

In November, it hit the stands: A new single and an upcoming album from Mitski. “The Only Heartbreaker” was also released that day as a single, and quickly became my favorite of the singles, and my favorite new song of the year as well. It was happy and quirky with those dark undertones we had come to expect from her music, and it’s smack in the middle of Laurel Hell’s track listing. Center stage, if you will.

The album as a whole is cohesive, but in a shy way that you have to look for. Amidst the Elton John-esque piano synths in “Should’ve Been Me” and double entendres like “Stay Soft”, is a portrait of a woman who has grown since we first heard from her all those years ago. She is reminiscing on her time in the music industry and reflecting on how things weren’t how she expected they would be. Songs like “Working for the Knife” and “Everyone” are paramount to her experience in the limelight, and almost a warning for those wishing to follow in her footsteps.

It’s hard to say I have a favorite track on Laurel Hell. They all hit me in such different ways and different places. In “Love Me More” it was like she ripped a page out of my life where my husband asks how he can possibly give me more attention when I ask why he is leaving the room. In “Heat Lightning” she sings about insomnia, pointing toward the hopelessness I feel when I see another car drive past my window at 2 a.m., the headlight casting just that one long shadow that leaves as quickly as it showed up. In “Working for the Knife” when she says “I used to think I’d be done by 20”, spitting back into my face the obligation of waking up each day. It’s effortlessly relatable. I’m starting to think I should get a therapist.

“I’ll be the water main that’s burst and flooding / You’ll be by the window, only watching”, Mitski sings in “The Only Heartbreaker”. I at first thought maybe it was the wrong song to release as a single due to the upbeat nature of what ends up being a darker album, but now I realize it was the perfect choice. But of course it was perfect, because Mitski does nothing less. She is the perfectionist of all perfectionists. Such an explosion of feeling could only come from her mouth, and we are here on the sidelines, watching it unfurl.

4.5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Knuckle Puck – Disposable Life EP

When I was 15, I remember coming to understand politics for the first time and not knowing how to navigate it. I knew I would have to make decisions about the world outside of what I could see within the next few years. And while most of the music I listened to didn’t focus on this, I knew I had to discover how to figure my way through this mess. Years later, and having worked in the field of research, the feeling that simple information is filtered and given with an agenda is something that not only frustrates me, it affects my job.  

Disposable Life, Knuckle Puck’s latest release, is a reflection on looking outside of the box. It rages against agenda over honesty (“Gasoline”), and that breaking free and putting objective thought toward individual struggles is how to avoid being looked over (“In The Bag”).

You can buy or stream Disposable Life on Apple Music

Knuckle Puck have been slowly evolving their sound from the midwestern emo scene that influenced their early albums, but Disposable Life doubles down on the influences of the early naughts. The guitars are heavy but melodic, the vocals crisp and dark.

Disposable Life is a sonic history lesson of pop punk, taking influence from the early days of The Starting Line and Senses Fail, but incorporating the lessons learned in the time since those bands released their debuts. Rather than harp on relationships, Knuckle Puck have focused on being smarter as people and making better decisions as a whole.

Although the guitars could have been influential 20 years ago, they sound incredibly fresh in the moment. While Disposable Life could be written off as a throw-back EP, the lyrics bring it to a modern perspective and bridges the gaps between decades of genre. 

Opener “Gasoline” ignites the anger of realizing that the source of information you have trusted has been feeding you a narrative (“We’ve all been force fed lies / While each bull and bear bets against the truth / All told we’re free to choose, but all thoughts get drowned out in the noise”), while simultaneously taking pride in not only overcoming narratives but directing information to benefiting your own life, such as in “Levitate” (“There used to be demons hanging over me / But now they can’t touch me / Don’t you see me levitating?”)

Perhaps most telling is closer, “Here’s You Letter”, where the band comments on the lack of real conversation between people and the misunderstandings that haunt us all (“Here’s a letter for you, but the words get confused, and the conversation dies / Apologize for the past, talk some shit, take it back, are we cursed to this life?”). 

Disposable Life documents the feelings of a generation that feel lied to by their elders and are forced to learn harsh lessons on their own. Meanwhile, it explores the sound of a genre decades old that influenced the band in the present day. 

Knuckle Puck continue to prove themselves one of the most influential bands in the emo scene by simultaneously paying homage to the pop punks bands of old while forging new ground lyrically with ideas most people develop years beyond the band’s age. Disposable Life serves as both a reflection and a warning for the generations influences by them.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is freezing to death like an old hen left out in the backyard.

Review: Underoath – Voyeurist

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What an album rollout, huh? A lot has happened since last July, when Underoath kicked off their latest chapter with the release of “Damn Excuses” and began the rollout for the ninth studio album, Voyeurist. Originally slated for an October release, the album was pushed to January, leading to a slow trickle of single releases and even a brilliant album livestream event called Digital Ghost. But perhaps most typically for a band that has thrown more sonic curveballs than just about any other of their ilk, that six month stretch left room for plenty of discourse.

When the band reunited back in 2015, they kicked off their return with a massive tour which leaned into all the hits (namely, fan favorite albums They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line). But Underoath’s proper return in album form came in 2018 with Erase Me, which turned that celebrated reunion tour into a red herring. Erase Me was yet another new version of a band that has pushed its own boundaries since inception. While responses to the album varied widely, there’s no denying its impact, as the band solidified itself as a modern day hard rock powerhouse, playing to bigger crowds than ever before.

From the moment of “Damn Excuses” release until now, fans have debated which direction the band should take, but as always, Underoath have chosen to forge their own path. Voyeurist is another brilliant, fresh, and captivating chapter for a band that feels as in-the-moment as ever. Choose whichever era of the band you like best, but Voyeurist undeniably showcases Underoath as they are right now. And it’s really fucking exciting.

For fans that have avoided saturating their brains with those early singles, it’s truly rewarding to hear “Damn Excuses” and “Hallelujah” in rapid succession to open the album. The former feels just as angry as it did last summer, featuring some of the meanest guitar riffs Tim McTague has put to tape. “Hallelujah” is a modern day, bonafide Underoath classic, adding the haunting refrain of, “Cut the lights, face yourself / We’re not dreaming, this is hell” to the band’s short list of lyrics that feel custom-made for live audiences.

But it’s the following track, “I’m Pretty Sure I’m Out of Luck and Have No Friends” where the story of Voyeurist begins to crystalize. The song starts off slow, with interspersed phone calls to out-of-service numbers and 911, before Spencer Chamberlain’s quiet, breathy vocals provide context: “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, you’re fine / All of this is in your mind / Focus on the rising sun, slow down”. Voyeurist is rife with anxiety and anger, generally captured as a period of questioning and recovery in the wake of the tolls of religion. “It’s not in my head” he concludes by the track’s end, inverting his original stance and kicking off a scorched-earth rampage.

It goes without saying that Underoath is the perfect band to explore this concept. While Erase Me began chipping away at the idea, it never reached the existential depths of death and dread that Voyeurist does, in part because the album’s music is expertly crafted to do so. Large swaths of the album are as heavy and manic as anything the band has ever written. Other parts lean hard into the atmospheric passages that have always set the band apart, driven largely by the work of Chris Dudley. 

When those worlds collide, as they do on “Cycle”, it creates something breathtaking. It’s a punishing track from start to finish, with an exasperated Chamberlain roaring, “Carve out my eyes, I can’t see anyway / Darker than heaven, empty as god / There is nothing to live for”. “Thorn” spotlights another of Voyeurist’s strengths: the dueling vocals of Chamberlain and drummer Aaron Gillespie, a trademark from the band’s early days that has fluctuated in its use throughout the years, but is on full display here. The two elevate one of the album’s most thrilling choruses to its peak, with Chamberlain howling, “I’m your thorn” repeatedly. It’s a testament to his growth as an artist and vocalist over the years that it feels like no one else in the genre could carry the weight of such a moment.

Speaking of dueling vocals, “We’re All Gonna Die” is an album highlight that blends the heaviness of the rest of the album with a Chasing Safety-like melodic sensibility. Gillespie and Chamberlain’s one-two punch of “Let’s be honest, I’m heartless, I could care less / Hey, we’re all gonna die, don’t pretend to be alive” on the back half of the chorus is one of the catchiest moments the band has ever captured, which feels oddly disorienting considering the song’s thesis. 

For all of its twists and turns, the back half of Voyeurist is all leading towards its finale: “Pneumonia”. For a band with a long list of epic album closers, “Pneumonia” may be its best. For an almost three-minute stretch in the middle of the song, Dudley, Gillespie, and McTague combine for what may likely go down as Underoath’s crowning musical achievement. It’s a stretch that captures the entire emotional journey of the album without the need for a single spoken word. It’s truly breathtaking. It’s the reason so many have followed this band for so long.

It all ends with some of the most guttural screams of Chamberlain’s career: “Weightless. Lifeless. Endless. No way back.”

Underoath have had the good fortune of working with some of modern rock’s most lauded producers over the years. James Paul Wisner, Adam Dutkiewicz, Matt Goldman, Matt Squire. The output of those sometimes strained relationships has always lent itself well to the tug-of-war thematic and music elements that set Underoath apart. But this time around, Voyeurist is self-produced, and you can feel it deeply in a way that’s hard to put into words. 

Now nearly 25 years into their existence, throughout all of the lineup changes, the breakups, the internal struggles, Underoath feel as confident in who they are as ever before. It’s impossible to know what comes next, but right now, in this moment, Voyeurist may be the crowning achievement of a band that continues to carve its own path in the most interesting of ways.

5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

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Every once in a while, something incredible happens. A new band begins building a grassroots buzz through a sprinkling of singles that gradually increases into a viral fever pitch. It all leads up to a debut album that could never possibly live up to expectations – but then it totally does. And it’s one of my favorite things to witness as a music fan.

For Canadian metal band Spiritbox it all began five years ago when vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Mike Stringer picked up the pieces after the fallout of iwrestledabearonce and began formulating their next move. The duo’s debut self-titled EP came in 2017, followed by a string of singles after the addition of bassist Bill Crook, and eventually, drummer Zev Rose. Last year, upon the release of breakout tracks “Blessed Be” and the thunderous “Holy Roller”, Spiritbox was the most hyped new metal act in recent memory.

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You can buy or stream Eternal Blue on Apple Music

With five of the album’s 12 tracks already in circulation by the time Eternal Blue arrived, it was fair to wonder if the band had actually kept something in their back pocket to tie things all together. Did they ever. Eternal Blue is album of the year material. It’s an album that reimagines what a metal band can deliver. It solidifies Spiritbox as a giant in a genre that needs them more than it probably even realizes.

LaPlante and company wisely placed “Holy Roller” as the centerpiece of Eternal Blue. From opener “Sun Killer”, the band begins climbing the mountain toward that deafening peak before descending down the other side on the album’s back half, closing brilliantly with the atmospheric and sorrowful “Constance”. The album is designed to flow together effortlessly, even as the songs themselves individually ebb and flow. I’ve gotten chills each time “Sun Killer”, with its note-bending breakdown, transitions flawlessly into the manic opening notes of “Hurt You”.

As Spiritbox began staking their claim as a metal newcomer to be reckoned with, Stringer’s knack for complex, djent-y guitar passages drew comparisons to U.K. metalcore giants Architects. And sure enough, here’s Sam Carter delivering a chorus for the ages alongside LaPlante on “Yellowjacket”, howling, “Where was the grace when I was asking for it?” That cry into the void is a sentiment that exudes from many of the tracks on Eternal Blue, with answers often coming from within.

LaPlante’s transparent journey through the tumultuous waves of depression don’t always lean into feelings of hopelessness, but rather consistently look for open doors and windows. Of the title track, LaPlante shared, “Lyrically, it’s about someone who is at rock bottom but is trying not to romanticize that.” Still, she saves space to acknowledge those moments when it’s not that easy. On “The Summit”, she sings, “I was looking for the wrong way out / Empty road is like an open mouth” before her repeated refrain of, “The venom is what keeps me alive”. 

That visceral rise and fall effect throughout the course of Eternal Blue is something that reveals itself in new ways on each repeated listen. Take “Halcyon”, which opens with the band pounding the earth beneath their feet to dust just before the music gives way to LaPlante’s effortlessly and gracefully delivered opening lines. The band then slowly winds up for the punishing outro, with LaPlante screaming, “Irrelevance is imminent / I could be one of them” just in time for what amounts to a deep breath, followed by one of the most massive breakdowns on the album.

In the end, the ultimate payoff of Eternal Blue seems almost predestined. In a rare moment of wild confidence on the bridge of “Circle with Me”, LaPlante shreds her vocal chords as she roars, “I held the power of a dying sun / I climb the altar and I claim my place as God”. The raucous final call to circle with her and her bandmates is one that will not go unanswered. Spiritbox have owned the moment, and their new legion of fans can now lose themselves under the waves of Eternal Blue again and again.

5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.