Eras of Influence: 2004-2010 – Underoath

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This article is part of an ongoing series in which I examine the artists and music that defined specific eras of my life. You can read my previous installment on L.A. Symphony, covering the years 2000-2004.

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Each year when summer arrives, there is a specific rotation of music that takes over my stereo. You know the sound, because it’s likely the same for you. There’s music that just sounds like summer. It’s a season unlike any other in that regard. And for me, there’s no other album that better captures everything I want to feel in summertime than They’re Only Chasing Safety by Underoath. Because in the summer of 2004 when the album was released, I found my favorite band.

I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to write this article. Each of my past Eras of Influence features have effortlessly tumbled straight out of my mind and onto the screen through a fury of fluid keystrokes. But I’ve literally held off for months in writing about how Underoath defined this period of my life. They’re my all-time favorite band. I’ve seen them 10 times in concert. I’ve written so exhaustively about them through the years, that it’s difficult to know what else to say.

So I’m going to write, but I’m also going to link to a lot of other things I’ve written. Because they’re applicable to the story of how this band was so formative during this stretch of my life that every “era” still to come in the years I have remaining will be measured against it.

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You can buy or stream They’re Only Chasing Safety on Apple Music.

I spent the summer of 2004 living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, working for a nonprofit organization with nine other people who were all sharing a house together. One weekend in June, I drove back to my college town to visit some friends – namely Mitch. While in college, I lived with Mitch and his brother Nick who were also in a band with their older brother Travis. It was through these three brothers that I discovered most of the music that defined my college years and beyond. If they were listening to it, chances were high that it was cool.

That June weekend, I was excited to tell Mitch how much I had been enjoying a new band I had discovered called Emery. I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mitch had another band for me. “If you like Emery, you’re going to love this.” He booted up the computer, navigated to the Tooth and Nail Records website, and began playing a grainy, low quality music video for a song called “Reinventing Your Exit”. It’s well documented how much Underoath took the scene by storm that fateful summer of 2004, and I imagine that some of you had a very similar experience. If you were sharing one album with your friends that year, it was They’re Only Chasing Safety.

Further reading: Reflecting On Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

Although that album opened the screamo floodgates and I gobbled up every lookalike that came in the wake of Safety, no one quite had the “It” factor like Underoath. I spent the next summer in Tulsa again, crammed into a house with 14 people this time, several of whom had also discovered Underoath. It was spreading. And even though we were diving into other new bands like Hawthorne Heights, Chiodos, and From First to Last, we always defaulted back to Underoath.

But what made Underoath not just a cool band that came into my life one summer, like so many other cool bands have over the years, is what happened in the summer of 2006. Once again, I was in Tulsa, and on Tuesday, June 20, I woke up early and drove to Wal-Mart where I kindly asked an employee to open boxes of new CDs until they uncovered the special edition version of Define the Great Line. I spent the remainder of the summer listening to it daily. Alone in my room. Driving in the car. Taking a late evening walk. It didn’t matter when, where, or how many times I played it. Because every time I listened, I heard something new.

With Define the Great Line, Underoath made the bold and now legendary decision to completely abandon the sound that had made them a sensation. Instead of crafting another melodic and instantly catchy collection of songs, they made an album. An album without choruses, full of experimentation, designed to be listened to in full, from front to back. And it was heavy as hell. 

On paper, it should have swiftly ended the band’s run of dominance, but instead, it only made them bigger. And that can only happen when a band is simply operating on a different level of talent and vision than any of their counterparts. During this stretch, Underoath was more than just a band in the scene. They were the band by which every one of their peers was measured.

Further reading: Reflecting On Underoath – Define the Great Line

During these years, Underoath was a topic of conversation for me to a point where I’m sure it actually caused annoyance. I couldn’t stop talking about them. There has never been another point in time in which I was as obsessed with a band or artist. When Underoath abruptly dropped off Warped Tour in the summer of 2006, I felt like my own circle of friends may be in danger of breaking up. When drummer Aaron Gillespie left the band in 2010, I cried. 

Aaron, Spencer, Tim, Chris, Grant, and James felt like people I actually knew (even though I didn’t). And not in some creepy way, but in a “I love this music so much, I want to understand what’s inspiring the people who are making it” kind of way. I attended their shows any time the band came within striking distance. I owned more Underoath t-shirts than was reasonable. I bought every magazine on which they graced the cover. And every new band I discovered, I heard with a different set of ears because Underoath truly changed the way I listened to and understood music.

Further reading: Underoath 20 January 2013 – Chicago

After those early summers, it was obvious that Underoath was a band that was meant to shapeshift. Each new album was going to sound different and tread new ground, and it was exciting to ponder what would come next. Underoath defines this era of my life because of the way they sounded, but more importantly, they are my favorite band because of what they had to say.

From 2004 to 2010, which included the release of Underoath’s four best albums, a lot happened in my life. I finished college and left my days of youth behind me, entering the cold adult world. I became cemented in my Christian faith and went off to seminary to study further before abandoning the faith completely. I got married. I got divorced. I moved halfway across the country to a new city where I knew no one, but ended up meeting some of my closest friends. Through therapy, I came to understand that I struggled with depression and I began trying to climb out of that dark hole.

That’s a lot of life for any one band to provide the soundtrack, but somehow, Underoath pulled it off. Spencer Chamberlain’s own inner demons were battled consistently throughout the band’s catalogue. They openly and honestly wrestled with the complicated nature of faith and belief. Their constant shifts in sound were a perfect fit for the many city, apartment, and job changes I experienced. And I’m forever grateful for what they created, because it’s hard to imagine surviving the chaos of those years of my life without their music.

Further Reading: Reinventing Their Exit: Reflections on the Music of Underoath

The year 2010 brought Underoath’s Disambiguation, an album that closed a chapter for the band and preceded their breakup. That final note somehow perfectly bookended a period of my life, as everything would change in 2011. A new relationship. A new city. A new community of friends. A new start. By the time I found my footing, Underoath would return with the perfect album for new beginnings. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

I’m excited to explore the next two eras of my life that bring us to the present day, because each of them holds important moments of progress for me, both as a person and as a consumer of art. But at this point, I feel fairly confident that no new band or artist will ever hold the level of captivation Underoath has held in my life. And that’s okay. Pretty much all of us have that one band that changed everything. The one band that we can go back to again and again and again without ever tiring. Our favorite band.

As I write this, the summer of 2021 has arrived. And I can’t wait to spin They’re Only Chasing Safety. I know exactly how it will make me feel. And it’s a very good feeling.

Second Tier: Saosin, Paramore, Anberlin, My Chemical Romance, Kanye West

More Reading:

Podcast: Interview with Chris Dudley of Underoath

Illuminator feat Underoath: 15 July 2011

Review: Underoath – Erase Me

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

Reflecting On: Underoath – Ø (Disambiguation)

Underoath Return from the Shadows on Rebirth Tour

The Unmatched Urgency of Underoath on No Fix Tour

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.

Reflecting On: Underoath – Ø (Disambiguation)

I’ve often said that Underoath’s sonic evolution has mirrored that of my own musical tastes. Maybe that’s just an easy way of explaining why the Tampa, Florida, sextet is my favorite band, but at a minimum, it showcases why Underoath has been so foundational in my understanding and enjoyment of heavy music. 

By 2010, I was three albums into my obsession with the band, who had originally opened my heart’s door to the screamo explosion before quickly expanding my palate to post-hardcore leanings with Define the Great Line and Lost in the Sound of Separation. I was ready for something new, but like many fans, had no idea what to expect.

You can buy or stream Ø (Disambiguation) on Apple Music.

That’s mostly due to the fact that by the fall of 2010, I was still wrapping my head around the departure of drummer, vocalist, and founding member Aaron Gillespie. The band’s inner turmoil and fractured relationships were no secret, but it was that tension that seemed to drive the band creatively, at least until the chasm was too severe. Nevertheless, any Tooth & Nail/Solid State fan understood the impact and possibilities with the addition of former Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison. Whatever happened next stood to not only be the band’s heaviest work to date, but to determine the fate and future of the band.

Even 10 years later, there are times when I listen to Ø (Disambiguation) and ponder whether it is the best work the band has released. The album serves as the moment when Spencer Chamberlain became a full-fledged creative and vocal force. It showcases the band’s ability to graft new industrial and metal stylings into a familiar sound, led by guitarist Tim McTague and the brooding electronics from Chris Dudley. It also seems to be a relative footnote in the band’s history.

During the album cycle for Ø (Disambiguation), I had the chance to see the band live on two occasions. First, I saw them as openers for A Day to Remember, an experience that never set right with me and still feels hard to swallow. Months later, I saw them on their headlining Illuminatour in Louisville, Kentucky, in front of the smallest crowd I’ve ever seen at an Underoath show. The popularity of a band still at the top of its game was waning before our eyes. It almost seemed predestined in 2012 when the band announced their plans to disband.

Ø (Disambiguation) had accompanied me through a tumultuous time in my life, something that makes it feel even more personal and special in my memory. But the scene had changed, for better or for worse, and so had the tastes of heavy music listeners – at least in the circuit with which Underoath was most recognized. Be that as it may, it’s still hard to pinpoint what exactly led to the flame out.

When Underoath embarked on their farewell tour in 2012, I saw them play The Metro in Chicago in front of an energized sellout crowd. But something was off. As much as I love and respect Davison, the absence of Gillespie at the time felt palpable, especially for a band taking one final victory lap that included playing a large swath of songs that felt hollow without Aaron.

And thus lies the peculiar no-man’s land in which Ø (Disambiguation) resides. Upon the band’s reunion – with Gillespie behind the drum kit – it only made sense to return to those early works like They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line. When I attended the band’s No Fix Tour after the release of Erase Me, the band included “Paper Lung” in the setlist – one of Ø (Disambiguation)’s signature songs and one of the band’s best. But again, something didn’t feel right. Those songs belong to a lost time in the band’s history.

It’s a weird thing to think about. There will be no 10 year anniversary tour for Ø (Disambiguation) for a variety of reasons. And while it makes sense as to why the album feels so forgotten in the conversation around one of modern heavy music’s most important bands, it’s also a shame. Because it is a damn good album from a band that simultaneously had nothing and everything to prove. And, as always, Underoath came through.

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.

Underoath’s Return Has Been the Best Kind of Comeback

Remember when it felt like every single one of your favorite bands was breaking up? It probably feels like a lifetime ago, seeing as how reunion announcements keep coming in waves. Even just last week, Anberlin announced a string of dates in Australia with more likely to follow in the States, and William Ryan Key shared that he’ll be playing a Yellowcard set at Slam Dunk 2019.

It’s difficult to pinpoint just exactly when we reached peak scene revival, but for fans of the music, it hardly matters. Delightfully, many of these reunions involve reliving our favorite songs and albums in one-off performances or tours, allowing us to sing along once more.

Still, a few returns have offered us something more unique and interesting, and none have been as captivating to watch as that of Underoath.

As hard as it is to believe, it’s been almost four years since the Tampa, Flordia, six-piece announced their comeback, and things seem to keep escalating. The band just embarked on a U.S. tour with Breaking Benjamin, and this summer, they’ll hit the road as the opening act for Korn and Alice and Chains. If you had to read that sentence twice, you’re not alone.

Aside from all the noise around the band’s religious views (or lack thereof) upon their return, the overarching narrative has been about the music (imagine that!) With the release of last year’s Erase Me, the band once again explored new territory, much to the chagrin of a specific corner of the fanbase. Instead of following trend and bathing in nostalgia, the band pushed forward with an album that feels current, honest and thoughtful, even if not fully familiar. As I said when it released last year, it’s the best thing the band could have done.

As a long-time fan, it’s been so much fun to watch the band’s second act – one that has now resulted in a Grammy nomination and larger touring slots than ever seemed possible, even back in Underoath’s mid-aughts heyday. It’s no surprise that bands like Breaking Benjamin and Korn may not be the cup of tea for a certain vocal portion of the band’s old guard, but to put it plainly, who cares?

It’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around anyone being angry at Underoath. If you’re a fan, a group of musicians you obviously care about and have an investment in are getting to do something amazing. How many other bands from this scene have reunited and found this kind of success all these years later? It’s kind of astounding. And as has been said more times than anyone can count, albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line are still around and can be listened to anytime, anywhere. The band even started their reunion with a giant tour centered solely around those albums.

It’s wholly reasonable to not be a fan of Erase Me, but it’s completely irrational to lambast a band who get to keep living their dream and doing what they love. An appropriate reaction might be something along the lines of, “Congratulations!”

Personally, Erase Me won’t go down as my favorite Underoath album – it probably ranks somewhere in the middle of their discography. But I cannot wait to watch my favorite band take the massive stage this summer, playing to an entirely new audience who is just now falling in love with a band I’ve adored for almost half of my life.

Underoath’s reunion could have been a flash in the pan like so many others we’ve seen in recent years. I can’t help but be grateful that, from every indication, the band is going to be around for quite a while longer. To me, that’s a dream-come-true for just about any fan.

Photo Credit: Dan Newman

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 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.

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

Underoath’s sixth studio album, Lost in the Sound of Separation, released on Tuesday, September 2, 2008. I purchased a copy of the album on my birthday, three days prior, thanks to a very cool FYE employee who retrieved a deluxe version of the record from the store’s back room, quietly informing me not to tell anyone as he handed me the CD. I proceeded to listen to the album non-stop for well over a week, soaking in every detail I could.

You can buy or stream Lost in the Sound of Separation on Apple Music.

I share this story because it was one of the last times I would be so excited about an album – so eager and impatient that I would boldly ask a retail employee to let me buy the album before it went on sale. So enthralled with a band that I would schedule my days to ensure time was carved out for quiet, uninterrupted listening sessions.

By the release of Lost in the Sound of Separation, Underoath was still on top of the heavy music world, with 2006’s Define the Great Line landing at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and launching the band to a new level of stardom. Not only did that album set the stage for the next decade of post-hardcore, it showcased a band that was unafraid to take risks.

Sharing the same production team (Adam Dutkiewicz and Matt Goldman) as Define, Lost in the Sound of Separation feels like a brilliant second chapter – one in which the story’s authors had fully honed the very craft that made their art so acclaimed in the first place. It is at once violently chaotic and oddly serene.

If They’re Only Chasing Safety holds the title of Underoath’s most accessible work and Define the Great Line as their most critically acclaimed, Lost in the Sound of Separation may very well be the best work ever released by one of the genre’s most revered bands. Call it their In Utero – a thematically and sonically dense, under-appreciated album that now flies mostly under the radar for lack commercial appeal.

Also, much like that Nirvana classic, Separation was created to be raw and real. The band utilized space and setting when recording the album in hopes of making something that could be translated to a live setting without tricks. Passages that required vocal layering employed all members of the band. Long hallways and nooks and crannies were used to add natural effect and echo. Guitar tracks were laid down without cutting out natural flaws in performance.

At a time when heavy music had begun fully embracing the kind of clean, pure production that made albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety such a smash, Underoath bucked in the opposite direction. Despite its aforementioned similarities to Define the Great Line, deep listens reveal the idiosyncrasies that set it apart.

Spencer Chamberlain’s opening cries of, “I’m the desperate and you’re the savior” remain one of the most distinct moments in the band’s catalogue. The brutal opening to the record is intensified by the lack of vocals from Aaron Gillespie, who doesn’t join the fray until a few minutes into the second track. Nevertheless, his presence is felt throughout thanks to the most stick-splintering drumming of his career.

The electronic influence of Chris Dudley is at its most sinister on Separation – listen back to the haunting keyboards that bring “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” to a close and ask yourself if the concept was ever used as effectively on another hardcore record. Guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith combine with bassist Grant Brandell for dark, sludgy passages on “Emergency Broadcast: The End is Near” that mark a startling departure from anything the band had put to tape at the time.

Later, on the criminally underrated “Coming Down is Calming Down”, McTague shreds so hard that you can hear every squeal and squawk of his guitar. By the album’s end, the chaos subsides on “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” and “Desolate Earth: The End is Here”, giving way to a darkly delicate close featuring a cello and a muffled Chamberlain crying out for God to “save us all.” It’s a chilling end, to be sure, and interpretations of the outcome are certain to vary.

Impressively, for all of its bite and brutality, Lost in the Sound of Separation debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, leading to more headlining tours and top billings at festivals. Nevertheless, the album’s cycle would become linked with a transition for the band, as Aaron Gillespie stepped away before the band would record Ø (Disambiguation) and disband. Like each of Underoath’s releases, Separation is a time capsule inescapably linked with storylines and intrigue.

When the band reunited for 2016’s Rebirth Tour, I found it interesting that the band chose to play Safety and Define in their entirety. While certainly their most commercially successful and “popular” releases, the absent Separation seems to hold a deep connection for many longtime fans. Even now, the band seems hesitant to explore the record, including only “Breathing in a New Mentality” on setlists. It’s hard not to wonder why the album that was created with live performances in mind is so rarely chosen for that setting.

While I await the day that tracks from Lost in the Sound of Separation find their way back into Underoath setlists, I have carried on a decade-long tradition of celebrating the album on my birthday with focused, intentional listens that remind of how I felt in 2008 when the album was everything I had been waiting for. It’s still just as satisfying as it was back then, and to me, that is truly the sign of a great album.

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 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.

Podcast: Interview with Chris Dudley of Underoath

Underoath is back on the road in support of their first album in eight years, Erase Me. Kiel Hauck caught up with Chris Dudley, master of keyboards, electronics, and synthesizers for the band, to discuss Underoath’s return. During the conversation, Dudley shares how the band rebounded from their break-up, rekindled their friendships, and the peace they’ve found in creating the music they want to make. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite Underoath album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Underoath: Hiding in The Subterranean

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Underoath, appearing in Chicago for a secret show to celebrate the release of their new album,Erase Me, brought with them a day of sacrifice. Freezing temperatures and strong winds mocked those waiting outside The Subterranean for hours for one of the few entrance wristbands, and then again later in the evening just to get inside. However, the effort to make it was rewarded with a short, intimate set with the band that couldn’t have happened any other way.

Small, dark and doing its best to look like a basement, The Subterranean is a small venue. The stage rises just above the crowd and leaves little room between the performers and their fans. It is a perfect venue for cutting out the negative space as much as possible. For those in attendance, it was hard earned.

“I got here around eleven this morning to get a wristband, and the line was already back here,” one guy said as he pointed to the entrance of a Starbucks down the street from the venue. A particularly cold gust of wind caught everyone off guard, but he just shook his head at us. “It was colder this morning.”

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For all of their effort, Underoath appeared and rewarded the crowd of 200 with a short, brutal set. With the audience leaning directly on the stage, vocalist Spencer Chamberlain figuratively, and then literally, stood on top of them.

The secret show was a reward for the diehards. Starting with “On My Teeth”, the 40-minute set traded singles off of Erase Me (“Rapture”, “No Frame”) with some of the most popular songs of old. Announced as dedication for their older fans, Underoath jumped straight into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “Reinventing Your Exit”. “Writing on the Walls”, the only song from Define the Great Line closed out the evening.

Keyboardist Christopher Dudley traded smiles with the crowd. Guitarists Timothy McTague, Grant Brandell and James Smith bounded with what limited movement they could muster on the tiny stage. Aaron Gillespie, hidden in dark and masked with fog and shining lights threw all of his energy into decimating the drumset.

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Short, sweet chaos.

For fans, spending the day waiting was worth it. Everyone seemed abuzz with how amazing it had been, all whispers of the cold long forgotten. “I waited 15 years to finally see them,” said one person waiting to retrieve their coat, “I can’t imagine a better way to have seen them for the first time.”

There is an excitement that swallows fans when a band reunites that wraps them in nostalgia. But the energy that follows a new release is something else entirely. If the excitement they showed Chicago to be in full motion once again is any indication, the future of Underoath is promising a lot of great things to come.

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by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 got into a Secret show. He is officially cool. Don’t take that away from him…. Please?

Review: Underoath – Erase Me

The best part about watching the weekly episodes of “A Work in Progress”, the recent studio documentary from Underoath, is seeing the members of the band together again: smiling, dialoguing, creating. It’s a sight that’s easy to take for granted given the amount of music the band has delivered in their two decades of existence and how close they came to a full-on collapse, but upon their long-awaited return, it feels important to appreciate every detail.

It’s been eight years since the Tampa, Florida, post-hardcore act delivered Ø (Disambiguation), which could easily have been perceived as their swan song. In the years since its release, the band has broken up, reunited, rekindled fractured friendships, battled with lost faith, and quietly crafted an album that no one saw coming. Across these 11 new tracks, you can feel every pulse and beat of that conflict and the relief that has come on the other side.

You can buy Erase Me on Apple Music.

Erase Me is like no other Underoath album you’ve heard and very well may lose some long-time listeners upon first spin. But that would be a shame, because the album itself, like every release from the band, is a delineation of forward motion – yet another new take on the sound of a band that still refuses to be pigeonholed or confined to a genre.

In a way, early singles “On My Teeth” and “Rapture” are red herrings, respectively serving as a nod to the band’s roots and a clear model of an accessibility that has always been present beneath the surface. Truthfully, Erase Me largely lives somewhere in between, enveloping a gray area that has long been Underoath’s greatest strength. Thus, it’s quite difficult to put a label on it. You’ll find elements of alternative, industrial, and experimental sprinkled within.

Album opener “It Has to Start Somewhere” is an urgent allusion to both internal and external conflict, as Spencer Chamberlain howls atop rolling guitars, “If my tongue is the blade / Your hand is the gun / One of us ain’t going home tonight”. A sudden cut to a bedrock of programmed drums and electronic distortion, courtesy of Chris Dudley, finds Aaron Gillespie crooning, “This is what fear tastes like / Go ahead and make me numb”. It’s a moment that feels familiar and fresh – a reminder of how Underoath can make such a subtle moment feel so special.

These twists and turns pervade Erase Me, but unlike past efforts like Define the Great Line or Lost in the Sound of Separation, the band embraces choruses and melody. You can sing along to these tracks and simultaneously feel challenged. It’s a fine line to walk, and one that has been tested by others in recent years, but hasn’t felt perfected until now. The haunting synthesizers and soaring guitars behind “Wake Me” harken the band’s heavy tendencies even though Chamberlain never unleashes a scream.

The same can be said of “In Motion”, which finds Chamberlain and Gillespie sharing a call-and-response chorus that feels at once recognizable and like nothing else you’ve ever heard from the band. Keeping with the trend, Chamberlain’s closing cry of “There is no fix” offers a response to his questioning scream of “Where is my fix?” on “A Divine Eradication” eight years earlier. “Bloodlust” and “ihateit” lean hard into the band’s new melodic tendencies, offering catchy hooks atop complex, layered tracks that provide new sonic surprises upon repeated listens.

Yet for all of the discussion that will certainly surround the band’s new music, a greater conversation lies within the narrative. You’ve likely already seen headlines such as, “How Losing Religion Saved Underoath” or “’Christianity Ruined My Life’”, and while these flashy quotes allude to a very real thematic shift, they do little to do justice to the struggle involved in untangling one’s ties to religion. When all is said and done and Erase Me’s final notes have faded, this body of work serves the conversation well, but maybe not quite in the way you’d expect.

As with so many of Underoath’s albums, Erase Me is fraught with an internal existential dialogue that cries out for answers, many of which receive silence in return. It draws an interesting parallel – Underoath, at least in terms of their musical output, has never been a band to dwell on hard truths. Even at the height of the band’s popularity within Christian circles, it always felt like there was shifting sand below.

On “Sink with Me”, Chamberlain sings, “Hold me underneath the cold moonlight / Where I believe every lie you told to me / Tell me once more that I’m safe / I never believed so give me faith”. Juxtapose those words with lines from 2006’s “Everyone Looks So Good From Here” and you’ll find a common thread: “In a deep breath it all starts to change / Flip my world inside out / Honestly I like it better this way / When I mesh the night through the back of my eyes”.

Timeless narratives speak truth in our lives, but those truths can also evolve. As time and experience change our perspective, old words speak to us in new ways, which is why the songs from Define the Great Line still mean the world to me 12 years later, even though my worldview has shifted. It’s also why Chamberlain’s journey across the 11 tracks of Erase Me will speak volumes to others climbing from the wreckage of their own collapsed constructs. Solid ground has never suited them well, which is why Erase Me feels just about as honest as any work they’ve put forth, even if the general message is largely the same.

As the album winds to a close, “No Frame” offers a signature industrial, electronic Underoath audial experience, courtesy of Dudley. Chamberlain’s final words on the track stand out amidst the existential chaos: “Well I belong right here / Where the light runs from me / I don’t believe in fear / ‘Cause this place can’t haunt me”. It’s a poignant and potent message for our time – one of inclusion. No matter your age, your race, your sexual orientation, your belief system – you belong, regardless of where the light runs.

The members of Underoath claim to be the healthiest they’ve ever been as a band, creating their most honest work to date. Take that for what you will, but it’s hard to discount their conviction. To profess it all atop yet another sharp sonic turn that is sure to leave their fan base off-balance is just about the most Underoath thing they could have done. Don’t like the new sound? Give it time. This album is meant to be chewed on. And if you’re a fan of Underoath, that’s likely why their music means so much to you in the first place.

4.5/5

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 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.

Photo credit: Nick Fancher

Will Underoath Add to Their Legacy with “Erase Me”?

During a recent conversation with a friend, I lamented how age has impacted my passion for music. It’s not that I don’t love music anymore, it’s just that my youthful enthusiasm has faded with time. The days of pushing to the front of the stage at packed concert venues or growing giddy with excitement about an upcoming release have passed. These days, it’s a much more patient and reserved kind of love.

Or so I thought.

If you haven’t heard, my favorite band is releasing their first new album in eight years. Underoath is that band for me – the band that changed the way I looked at and thought about music. Since their 2015 reunion, I’ve avoided the slightest notion that they might make their way to the studio, mostly because it feels healthier to avoid wild, unwarranted speculation and simply enjoy the music we were given during their heyday.

You can pre-order Erase Me on iTunes.

Last week, we got our first taste of what the next chapter of Underoath will sound like with the release of “On My Teeth”. It’s been interesting to watch discussion unfold across online forums as fans absorb news of the band’s return. What I’ve found most intriguing are posts pining for the band to return to the sound of their personal favorite album, whichever that may be, and choices tend to vary.

What these kinds of discussions fail to acknowledge is the very thing that made Underoath one of the most revered and inventive bands in post-hardcore. With every release, the band managed to shapeshift in such a way as to push genre boundaries and test new waters. The result of this approach is a full catalogue of classic albums, each distinct in sound and voice.

I’ve certainly got my favorites – Define the Great Line standing at the front of the pack – but I still hold each album with esteem. In fact, I’m a firm believer that Underoath improved as a unit with each and every release, with Ø (Disambiguation) standing as the band’s greatest feat. While this seems to be a prevailing opinion among many, it seems odd that anyone would want the band to deviate from what has made them so beloved.

Can you imagine the 2018 version of Underoath releasing an album akin to They’re Only Chasing Safety? Furthermore, can you imagine enjoying it? On April 6, Erase Me will unfold as something new and something fresh. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea upon first listen, there’s little doubt in my mind that it will be another standalone record that showcases the band’s growth and desire to forge ahead.

Personally, I’m excited to hear the band battle their demons (figuratively and literally), wrestling through the fallout with their religious affiliations. Perhaps no band in recent memory has so openly discussed their inner turmoil and the strength it takes to fight for your friendships. That honesty is something that sets Underoath apart, and it’s something that certainly must have served them well during the writing of this album.

Whatever comes, we fortunately won’t have long to wait. Until April 6, my friends will continue to politely nod and smile as I ramble on about the band’s discography and explain how they re-defined a genre. If I’m lucky, they’ll even stick around to hear me gush about Erase Me well into the summer. I feel giddy again. And I like it.

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 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.

Photo credit: Nick Fancher

Watch New Underoath Music Video for “On My Teeth”

Just as we (and everyone else) began speculating, the return of Underoath (with original drummer Aaron Gillespie) is upon us. The Florida post-hardcore act has signed to Fearless Records and will release their first full-length album in eight years on April 6. Preorder packages for Erase Me are now available on the band’s website.

In addition to the announcement, the band has also released the first single from Erase Me titled, “On My Teeth”. You can watch the music video for the new track below, which includes an introduction from the band for Erase Me. Take a look:

Additionally, in a press release this afternoon, Aaron Gillespie provided insight into the band’s return and their approach to creating a new album:

“We’ve had success and we’ve come through a lot of waters. “There’s been 11,000 things we’ve been through so you would think, almost rhetorically, ‘What do you need now?’ All of us are finally in that place in our lives where the only thing we care about is inclusion for everybody—for the world. For me, exclusion is the scariest thing in the world. And I think Underoath coming back now with a new record—which none of us thought was possible—we want people to know that this is your music and you can feel however the fuck you want about it. I just want to prove that we are doing everything in the most honest way we ever have. This is the healthiest we’ve ever been as a group of people, as musicians, and in our worldview.”

Underoath reunited in 2015 for the Rebirth Tour – a trek that saw the band play fan favorite albums like They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line in their entirety. Since the reunion, the band has played select festivals as fans speculated on the possibility of new music. It looks like we’ve finally got our answer. Welcome back, Underoath.

What are your thoughts on the new track? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Photo credit: Nick Fancher

Reflecting On: Underoath – Define the Great Line

underoath-define-2006

A decade after its release, Define the Great Line remains a pinnacle of the post-hardcore genre and an album by which all others of its ilk are judged.

For Underoath, a band that released four classic records and influenced a new generation of heavy music, Define the Great Line remains their magnum opus – an album that showcases their talent and fearless drive. Still, the album’s very existence in its known form is a startling testament to a band with conviction.

Fresh off the heels of 2004’s breakthrough record, They’re Only Chasing Safety, Underoath had completed their first contract with indie label Tooth and Nail Records, making the Flordia sextet free agents prime for the picking. The band was courted by a host of major labels with big plans to break the group into the mainstream. If you close your eyes in a quiet room, you can almost hear the crystal sheen of a Safety follow-up on Warner Bros. Records, filled to the brim with pop-laden hooks and bouncing guitar riffs.

Instead of cashing in, the band quietly returned to their home at Tooth and Nail and entered the studio with Matt Goldman and Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz. What resulted defied genre expectations upon its release, shirking classification and launching the band to new heights. Define the Great Line turned the screamo scene on its head and dared its audience to follow.

Define is a heavy record, to be sure, but when placed alongside Safety, it’s damn near bone crushing. With hardly a chorus to be found, Define the Great Line found Underoath experimenting outside of conventional song structures, often switching tempos mid-track, keeping the listener off balance at all times. Listening to Define is akin to being dragged down a winding hallway by your shirt collar. But in the most therapeutic way possible.

Whereas Chasing Safety relied heavily on Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie’s call and response vocals, Define the Great Line is, without question, Spencer’s record. Chamberlain roars, howls, yells and cries aloud over the madness, only allowing Gillespie brief moments to speak. Those resulting vocal deliveries sound like pleading calls for help against Chamberlain’s manic battle.

All the while, Underoath explored new ground underneath the melee. Tim McTague and James Smith forgo simple riffing for complex chord progressions and bewildering breakdowns with help from bassist Grant Brandell. Chris Dudley’s keyboards and programming transformed from quirky background noise to a haunting bedrock that shifts tracks from disturbing to peaceful and back again.

Several minutes into the mammoth-sized “Casting Such a Thin Shadow”, nearly every trace of old Underoath is gone, with the band orchestrating one of the most beautiful and painful instrumental segments you’ll find on a post-hardcore record. When Chamberlain breaks through at the 3:49 mark with “Speak up, my ears are growing weary”, you feel his need for answers with every fiber of your being. I still remember replaying the track again and again on the day of the album’s release, trying to wrap my head around what I was hearing.

You could fill a book with descriptions of sonic acrobatics found on Define and the breath taking risk that such an endeavor was at the time, but equally impressive was the thematic content. In a genre where lyrical material can reach peak banal levels, Chamberlain experiences one of the most explosive existential crises put to tape on Define the Great Line. Here lies one of the most explicit, painful and ultimately beautiful depictions of a man alone with his thoughts, mistakes and regrets.

Underoath defied presumptions of a faith-based band over the course of their career simply by questioning everything they were expected to proclaim. The gospel preached on Define the Great Line consists of sitting amidst the hardest questions we ask ourselves and finding contentment when the only answer we receive is our own voice echoing off the walls.

This is an idea with which Chamberlain seemed quite familiar. “I stare so delicate and ashamed / At the shell I’ve shed myself from”, Chamberlain cries at the end of “There Could Be Nothing After This”, wrestling with guilt amid his defeat. Later, on “Returning Empty Handed”, he finds himself adrift once more, bellowing, “The floor is more fitting for my face / Here again? This is getting old”.

For all of the existential clamor that pervades each track on Define the Great Line, there exists a furious battle with the idea that we tread this journey devoid of company. During one of the most powerful moments in Underoath’s discography, Chamberlain repeatedly screams “We walk alone” as if attempting to jackhammer the idea into his skull. It’s a concept familiar to many – and one that is easy to accept in the middle of our trouble.

With such weighty content buried inside an experimental brew of the band’s heaviest work to date, it still seems unfathomable that Define the Great Line would translate to such great commercial success. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, moving nearly 100,000 units in its first week, effectively solidifying Underoath as the premier post-hardcore act of the 2000s. It also demanded that any band desiring to follow their lead stretch their boundaries or risk being left behind. It’s fair to say that the genre would never be quite the same.

Nevertheless, Define the Great Line came at a cost and nearly resulted in the premature demise of the band. A work of such transparency spoke to a real divide in the Underoath camp – one that splintered friendships and shook their foundation. Fortunately for fans, redemption ruled the day, much as it does at the end of Define the Great Line.

On “To Whom it May Concern”, Gillespie acts as the faint voice of the light at the end of the tunnel, singing, “At the end of the road, you’ll find what you’ve been longing for / I know ‘cause my feet have the scars to show”. It’s an unexpected twist ending with the album’s loudest theme being carried by its softest song. It’s also signature Underoath – a band motivated by unreasonable hope, devoutly unwilling to compromise its art. Ten years later, Define the Great Line’s message is just as powerful as it has ever been.

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 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.