Review: Grayscale – Umbra

Every once in a while, a band just finds their sound. For Grayscale, this came in the form of the single “In Violet”, a song that stood out against the rest of their album Nella Vita. Although the album itself was stellar, there is a magic to “In Violet”. The song is a vortex of moody melodies and dark lyrical subject matter that swirls around a joyful chorus and the swelling of celebratory horns. For their newest album, Umbra, Grayscale have fully leaned into the ideas that gave birth to “In Violet”. The results of this is an album that is over-the-top, stylish, fun and arguably unlike anything else currently in the scene. 

You can buy or stream Umbra on Apple Music.

For Umbra, Grayscale have thrown everything at what made “In Violet” stand out at each song. In a way, it almost sounds overwhelming. There are extensive saxophone solos (“Motown”), gospel choruses (“Live Again”), glitzy guitar solos (“Dirty Bombs”) and songs that include literally all of the above (”Without You”). While these elements could easily be overdone, they’re presented in a way that sounds modernly creative as well as like a long-forgotten soundtrack to an 80’s blockbuster. Simply put, Umbra is exciting because it seems like almost anything can appear throughout the album’s 11 tracks. 

What ties these elements together and reigns them in is a retro-style guitar, courtesy of guitarists Dallas Molster and Andrew Kyne. Opener “Without You” carries a heavy vibe reminiscent of Rick Astley. However, much like “In Violet”, the energetic music hides the bitter lyrical subject matter. Amidst the roaring saxophone and guitar solos, vocalist Collin Walsh sings about the freedom he feels after leaving a toxic relationship (“How could I find love in a car crash? / I was pinned down with my hands back / I’m finally without you”). 

Bassist Nick Ventimiglia stands out most during the quieter moments (“Carolina Skies”), while percussionist Nick Veno finds a healthy restraint amidst the melody of songs, and switches up from a heavily produced sound (“Motown”), to what seems to be some nostalgic gated reverb (“Babylon (Say It To My Face)”).

Walsh’s vocals carry stories of loss and coping with darkness throughout Umbra, such as “King of Everything”, which chronicles the loss of a someone who seems to have left their marriage and friends in a type of mid-life crisis (“Yeah, you’re still a part of me / See the life you threw away, wedding bells and silver rings / No more pain and suffering / So go be the man you want to be”).

Meanwhile, closer “Light” sees Walsh mourning the loss of someone he loves as they pursue their dreams and leaves him stranded in place (“Hearts, they never heal in a straight line / Twelve weeks since you had to go and break mine / Sinking here like a stone / Sad to say, yeah, I know / It’s dark here, spinning deep into my head”). 

Umbra seems like too much, sonically, yet it works. Part of this is that all of the extravagant elements on the album are spread out, providing a taste of each from song to song. As such, the album somehow manages to weave an experience of sound that seems more fitting to mainstream pop than indie rock, but fits with the mood of the band. Umbra explores the darkness of relationships and the aftermath that haunts those stuck trying to find a new adventure. “In Violet” seems to have sprung a surge of creativity from Grayscale that heavily influenced this album, and the band is better for it.

4.5/5

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 slowly baking in the humidity like a potato. A mighty Idaho potato.

Most Anticipated of 2021: Underoath Provide Another Fix

Tampa, Florida, rock act Underoath didn’t let 2020 slow them down. Booked to support Slipknot on a massive summer tour that went up in smoke, the band launched a weekly Twitch show breaking down their catalogue track-by-track with a constant stream of guests. But it all led up to the big announcement: A live streamed concert event held over three nights called Underoath: Observatory. And it was incredible.

Not only did Underoath use the expertly executed Observatory series to set the bar for the litany of live-streamed concerts that came after, it turned out to be pretty profitable according to an article published by Forbes in July. While the Observatory series certainly won’t mark the end of Underoath’s time on the road, it opened a new door of possibilities for what it might look like for fans to experience their favorite band.

But throughout the band’s fascinating summer adventures, there was an undercurrent that there was more to come. Given that five of the six band members all still reside in the Florida area, it’s probably safe to presume that some collaboration and writing took place in 2020. Following Underoath’s successful comeback album, Erase Me, coupled with the tour opportunities that followed, now is certainly the time to strike while the iron is still hot.

If 2020 offered longtime fans of the band to re-experience Underoath’s old albums and classic material, 2021 could very well present us with something new. Whether you enjoyed the sonic evolution found on Erase Me or not, the band’s trajectory has always been one of exploration and change. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for another dose.

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.

Podcast: Talking Monomania with Tyler “Telle” Smith of The Word Alive

It’s been over 10 years since Phoenix metalcore act The Word Alive dropped their debut album, Deceiver. Since that time, the band has evolved into something completely new, as best captured on their latest release, Monomania. Lead vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith joins Kiel Hauck to discuss the band’s sixth album and how The Word Alive has continued to push themselves to create something that not only impacts their fans but stands the test of time. Smith also discusses how data now informs touring schedules and setlists and what it feels like to share new songs on stage. Listen in!

Like our podcast? Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review.

What is your favorite song from Monomania? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Blessthefall – Witness

“We’re not dead / We’re not like you said / We’re not dead / We’re not like you!”

In music, there are those special moments that send a chill up your spine no matter how many times you’ve heard them. The opening refrain of Witness, the sophomore album from blessthefall, still cause my hair to stand on end. It’s the rallying cry of a band that many had written off after the departure of lead singer Craig Mabbit, and it’s an explosive introduction to a new era of metalcore that would set the tone for the next decade of heavy music.

You can buy or stream Witness on Apple Music.

Even though blessthefall have released better albums over the course of their 15-year career (Hollow Bodies, Hard Feelings), I go back to Witness constantly – multiple times a year. With an October release date, the record brings back memories of autumn, but truly, this is an album that could spin year round. It’s heavy, but not punishingly so. It’s full of melody, but you’d never confuse it with the pop-screamo scene that proceeded it.

By late 2009, a new wave of metalcore acts were beginning to become household names in the scene. The Devil Wears Prada had achieved a rapid rise through Plagues and With Roots Above and Branches Below and Bring Me the Horizon had bled into the States with the success of Suicide Season. But those bands required a certain proclivity for and background in heavy music to fully appreciate. Witness offered an entry into metal while never feeling like it was compromising. It’s a heavy album that allows you space to breathe.

New lead singer Beau Bokan was just that – a singer. The band’s heaviness came from bassist Jared Warth’s brutal screams, guitarist Eric Lambert’s drop-D riffing, and drummer Matt Traynor’s machine-gun drumming. That opening cry of “We’re not dead” still resonates because of its urgency and authenticity. With Mabbit leaving for the seemingly greener grasses of Escape the Fate, blessthefall had a lot to prove in 2009, having just signed to Fearless Records with a new lead singer and a new sound. What the band delivered was nothing short of astonishing.

What Bokan brought to the band that Mabbit hadn’t with the band’s decent, but relatively pedestrian debut album, His Last Walk, was personality. Getting called up to the big leagues from indie band Take the Crown, Bokan immediately resonated with fans through his live performance and soaring vocals. That opening track leads into “What’s Left of Me”, which finds Bokan singing, “Blood is dropping from my hands / Tell me, is this what you wanted?” The entire album feels rife with bad blood – towards Mabbit and anyone who dared doubt the band could carry on. On the title track, Warth bellows the lines, “Don’t try so hard / We see right through you / You’re a liar, you don’t need to breathe / You said, you said, you said we’re done”.

Even the album’s iconic artwork hammers the point home. A lone monarch butterfly amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the word “WITNESS” in all caps lets us know we’re about to watch something rise from the ashes. It’s at once beautiful and menacing, but mostly, it’s a statement of purpose.

Yet for all of the vigor, anger, and drive found throughout Witness, the band still manages to find small moments of space for reflection, such as album closer “Stay Still”, in which Bokan carries the vocals entirely. On fan favorite “Hey Baby, Here’s that Song You Wanted”, the band leans into scene dramatics, kick-starting the track with a voicemail from a spurned former lover of Bokan’s that I’m still not sure is real or staged. The energy never dies, but the pace does shift enough to allow you to rest your neck.

One of my personal favorite moments on the album comes on “We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead”. Bokan, a vocal fan of Fall Out Boy, drops some of his most Pete Wentz-esque lyrics, singing, “Hide your makeshift hearts / We’re taking aim / And we won’t be leaving”. On “Five Ninety”, a track that bookends melody with crushing breakdowns, finds Bokan digging at the nerves the band likely felt when crafting this debut-redo, “This road is getting darker / You’ve been dying to find your inspiration”.

Though I have no definitive proof, I feel strongly that Witness was the gateway drug that led to the full metalcore explosion that came in the following years. Blessthefall (along with bands like A Day to Remember) allowed both musicians and fans alike to realize that there was room to write for multiple audiences and that the traditional pop punk Warped Tour crowd was open to listening to something a bit heavier if crafted in the right way. Witness doesn’t suffer from a weak moment or a lack of identity. It sets the stage for not only the next 10 years of a band that has become a mainstay and trendsetter, but a decade’s worth of bands hoping to catch that same fire.

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.

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.

Eat Your Heart Out Share New Track “Carousel”

On Friday, pop punk act Eat Your Heart out dropped a new single titled “Carousel”. The track is the first to be released since their 2017 EP, Mind Games, and was co-written by Movements’ Patrick Miranda. Hailing from Newcastle, Australia, Eat Your Heart out signed to Fearless Records in 2017 and has been steadily gaining steam thanks to a knack for writing emo-tinged tracks that ooze pop sensibility.

“Carousel” is no different, thanks to its instantly catchy hook, courtesy of vocalist Caitlin Henry. The track deals with the merry-go-round of thoughts that cause us to doubt ourselves instead of realizing our potential. There’s been no official announcement of a new album, but summer would certainly benefit from an Eat Your Heart Out full-length. Take a listen to “Carousel” below!

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

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: As It Is – The Great Depression

As It Is are one of the treasures of new-wave pop punk. While they could have easily become just another New Found Glory clone, they have spent their career expanding their sound with each album, as though they are trying to find the essence of pop punk itself. The Great Depression, though, sounds like a true sequel to the band’s sophomore effort, Okay. Where that album used pop to show how the outside world sees someone suffering within themselves, The Great Depression relies on hard rock to show how someone suffering sees the outside world.

You can buy or stream The Great Depression on Apple Music.

The Great Depression is an aggressive album that doesn’t try to solve the issue of depression. Instead, it takes aim at society’s quiet acceptance while attempting to remove the romanticism of the idea in general (“I know this isn’t something you’re going to like to hear / Which is exactly why you need to hear this”). As It Is borrows liberally from the emo bands of the mid-2000’s, even going so far as to carry a very deliberate My Chemical Romance homage in their recent music videos.

Guitarist Benjamin Langford-Biss’s guitarwork utterly changes gears for this album. He delves much deeper into a new, harder sounds that significantly expands the band’s range (“The Reaper”, “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)”). Bassist Alistair Testo builds a steady background of rough pop that bounces the tracks along despite how hard the guitars get. However, drummer Patrick Foley may be the hidden MVP of the album. His walls of percussion are extravagantly diverse, as though he was working overtime to impress guest vocalist Aaron Gillespie (“The Reaper”).

Likewise, vocalist Patty Walters gives a career best performance. He is pitch perfect for a pop record, but it’s the hints of screaming that make the performance. It adds an edge and urgency that matches the harsh aesthetic.

The Great Depression is a concept album that follows a character who personifies depression as either God or death itself. Either way, this being represents a society that is impartial or unconcerned with the struggles of mental illness. It is an element that adds chaos to someone who just strives to find peace.

Some songs take on depression in general, such as, “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”, as Walters sings, “I see a pain behind your eyes / I know you feel it everyday / It’s like a light that slowly dies / But it’s better not to say / It’s better not to say such things out loud”.

Other songs address this entity cursing the narrator’s life directly. During “The Reaper”, Walters sings, “I used to sing his praise / But now there’s no sweetness in his name / He’s been dying to show me to my grave”. “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)” bargains with the entity for a normal life. “I tell him there’s no chance, I’m not giving him my soul / It doesn’t feel it now but I know my heart is full / I’m not sure he’s right, but I’m not sure he’s wrong / I’m just desperate to belong”.

Closing track, “The End.” pleads for the outside world to understand without being playful. “Because I don’t need you to see this and I don’t want you to feel this / But I only have so much spark to offer in all of this darkness and I screamed for you until the day I gave up and lost my voice”.

The Great Depression is a leap of faith for As It Is. It is drastically different from their past work and addresses similar topics as their previous album from a whole new angle. It is arguably the band’s best work to date, and their most daring. As It Is could simply release pop record after pop record. Instead, they are proving themselves some of the most capable musicians of their generation.

4/5

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 just spilled a tray of tater tots. He is essentially a wobbly toddler that pays rent. Pro Tip: Cats don’t eat floor tots.

Review: Real Friends – Composure

It’s been just over two years since Real Friends came out with a full-length album, and while this isn’t an abnormally long period, I held firm belief that the band was in the process of creating their best work yet. It turns out, I wasn’t wrong. Composure is one of the best releases you’ll hear this year and is built as a story about the impact mental illness has on our relationships and our lives.

This is an album with a title that is vitally important to the context of the record. The very concept of composure itself is centrally woven through every song on the album, creating a continuity and arc that is impossible to ignore and a story that is liable to hit home for nearly everyone who listens.

You can buy or stream Composure on Apple Music.

As the album kicks off with “Me First”, there’s no composure present. Vocalist Dan Lambton bares it all, singing, “Why don’t you put me first for once / And spare me the bad news / Why don’t you put me first for once / We might need to slow down / Cuz’ I’m not going anywhere”. If you’ve ever been in a place where you don’t feel appreciated, it’s difficult to hold back your frustration once you reach your limit. Straightforward and biting, the character has voiced his concerns and now he can focus on working through it.

The bridge in “Stand Steady” is a continuation of the feelings in the first track. “Here I am / Showing every worry / To the world”, is a short but telling phrase that shows he’s still not cool with what’s going on. However, he’s decided to work on being the stronger person in the situation.

The story truly unfolds in “From the Outside”, which was a very fitting single for the band to release in anticipation for this album. Here we find that the person he’s struggling with is himself. Lambton has often spoken of struggling with bipolar disorder, and this song talks about his prescriptions and his constant need to save face. He’s in the public eye and has an influence. This idea continues on in the next song, “Smiling On the Surface”.

I took “Hear What You Want” to be referencing either a relationship with someone else or another way that he’s talking about himself. “I can’t leave you / You can’t leave me”, could refer to a toxic relationship or it could be talking about his mental illness. You can’t always get rid of what’s going on in your thoughts, and by hearing what you want, Lambton could be saying that the intrusive thoughts are a lot louder than he wishes they’d be, and even though one part of him knows he should ignore it, he can’t.

The next song, “Unconditional Love”, led me to believe that the past song is about a relationship. “You let me down / But you never let me go”, is saying that the relationship wasn’t beneficial, but they’re still trying to make it work despite knowing that it’s only a matter of time before things really go south. The last line of the song is “So let me go”, making clear that our character knows that what’s best for his mental health is to drop things that aren’t fulfilling and healthy.

On the title track, Lambton sings, “I’m reclaiming my composure”. He’s learning how to work through some of the tougher moments in his life. The second verse is where a lot of the darker ideas reside, quite literally. “I never told anyone / But the truth is I see / The shadow hanging over me”. I think this song is about not keeping cool, but losing it. He’s trying his absolute best to keep up with the meds and the preventative measures, but he still feels off.

The biggest thing about mental illness is how it makes you feel closed off from the rest of the world. Being in a crowded room and feeling like you’re the only one there. Doing something you love to do or being with people you love and, right in the middle of it, thinking to yourself that you don’t want to be there anymore.

“Get By” carries on the theme from “Hear What You Want” and “Unconditional Love”. This is the part of the story where our character decides to do something about the weight of this relationship. He breaks it off. An important note here is that it’s never implied that it’s any kind of romantic relationship. Mental illness messes up all kinds of friendships and family ties that, when they fall through, have that emotional attachment that is hard to get over.

A lot of pop punk is based on dating and breaking up (even some old Real Friends songs), but I feel like this album is trying to strike a different chord. The band’s character here is in a tough spot with someone, but not necessarily who we think. I think it’s important to remember that the impact of mental illness isn’t just something to romanticize, but it’s something that tears people apart. It’s hard to look back on your life and replay the conversations where something wasn’t quite over, but being able to notice signs that things weren’t right. Hindsight is 20/20.

The second-to-last track on Composure is “Ripcord”. In the vein of “Get By”, we see this situation from the opposite perspective, looking purely at the other side of this conflict. The other party feels like the character is using them for their support and only calls out when it’s convenient.

This is another facet of mental illness people don’t really talk about. It’s true that someone with a mental illness often fails to see past their struggle and watch the impact it’s having on others around them. Sometimes, though, it’s a protective measure for the person themselves. If they’re not getting the support they need from those around them, their last resort can be just focusing on making themselves able to cope and function. This isn’t an excuse, it’s a fact. So yeah, maybe in “Ripcord” other people in the character’s life are having trouble dealing with the way things are going, but our character himself is also having trouble.

The album ends with “Take a Hint”, where things turn around and settle down. Dan sings, “I’m learning to take a hint / Stay convinced / We’ll see the other side”. Despite the toll this whole ordeal has taken on our character, he’s still willing to find the optimism and works hard to stay in the place of positivity.

You may notice that I only talked about the lyrical merits of Real Friends’ new album Composure. I didn’t talk about how vocally dynamic it is, or how well produced it is, or how the band has matured musically. It is all of those things and more, but I think what’s important here is the message. It’s a cry for a help. It’s an explanation. It’s a warning. It’s a piece of art that highlights one of the most prevalent issues of today. It’s worth listening to not because you love the band or love pop punk, it’s worth listening to because with a little bit of effort, you might learn something.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva 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.

10 Real Friends Songs to Blast While Awaiting Their New Album

Like many punk fans, I’m eagerly awaiting the latest release from Real Friends. In preparation, I’ve been revisiting a lot of old favorites.

A lot of these songs were really important to me in my late teens. I’d been dealing with a lot emotionally and somehow Dan Lambton always had just the thing I needed to hear. The emotional connection has stuck with me since, and even though I don’t listen to their latest album, The Home Inside My Head, very often, I still get the same feelings of nostalgia when I do.

Real Friends’ music is almost cathartic for me, because remembering what I was dealing with and being removed from it now puts things into a lot of perspective. Songs like “Sixteen” don’t make me as deeply upset as they used to. I’ve felt the feelings and I’ve been learning to put them aside once I’ve dealt with them.

The feelings of emotional weakness that Lambton sings about really resonated with me then and they still do. I may not be in as bad of a place as I was when I was introduced to Real Friends, but sometimes stuff still bubbles up. The difference between then and now is that I recognize it and I’m able to deal with it more swiftly before it turns into a bigger problem.

I think Real Friends have really helped me figure out that process for myself. Their latest track, “From the Outside”, hasn’t really grown on me yet, but I’m getting there. I identify with a lot of the lyrics in the track, which gives me high hopes for their new album. A big trend in pop punk lately seems to be taking a lighter approach to the darker themes that are usually dealt with. Strangely enough, I’ve found myself in a place where I’m also taking a lighter approach to my struggles.

I’m excited to join Real Friends in their latest journey. I’m hoping to catch their set at Warped Tour this year and I have a feeling it will be a very emotional show for me, much in the way Neck Deep and The Wonder Years have been. There’s something strange about growing up with bands, and one of the best examples of that in my life is Real Friends.

Without further ado, here are my favorite songs by the band. I think it’s a great group of songs to dive into if you’ve never really gotten into them.

1. Skin Deep” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

2. “Colder Quicker” from The Home Inside My Head

3. “Late Nights In My Car” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

4. “Home” for Fall from the Everyone that Dragged You Here EP

5. “Sixteen” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

6. “From the Outside” from their new album due later this year

7. “I Don’t Love You Anymore” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

8. “I’ve Given Up On You” from the Put Yourself Back Together EP

9. “Floorboards” from the Everyone that Dragged You Here EP

10. “Summer” from Maybe this Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva 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: 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