Review: Architects – For Those That Wish to Exist

Legacy is a big and complicated word, regardless of context, but especially when we apply it to the ongoing work of an active artist. Thus, change can be scary. It raises questions and can cause us to prematurely re-evaluate the total body of work. But in some cases, the passing of time reveals those moments of change to have a lasting effect we never could have known in the moment.

You can buy or stream For Those That Wish to Exist on Apple Music.

We need not wait to discuss the impact of For Those That Wish to Exist as it relates to Architects’ legacy. It is a powerful beginning to a new chapter for a band that has defied the odds and overcome the kind of adversity that makes the existence of this very album astonishing. 

Over the course of their last three records, Architects simultaneously climbed to the summit of metalcore excellence while delivering the swan song of guitarist and primary songwriter Tom Searle. Their last outing, Holy Hell, in which the band constructed a story of grief and resolve with building blocks left behind by their bandmate and brother, was masterful in its feelings of finality. 

What makes For Those That Wish to Exist such a brilliant next step is that it looks, feels, and sounds like something new while maintaining the heart of a band that always wore it on their sleeve. Who would’ve imagined an Architects album featuring orchestral elements, synthesizers, drum machines, and clean vocal deliveries from Sam Carter sounding so true to the band’s mission? Who would’ve thought it would sound this good?

One need not pay mind to the Linkin Park comparisons, which imply a simplification in sound. Yes, many of the more technical metalcore breakdowns are absent, and sure, there are elements of nu metal to be found here, but Architects are interested in experimenting with sound and crafting something distinct. 

The smooth electropop stylings of “Flight Without Feathers”, complete with the most delicate delivery of Sam Carter’s career, still holds the atmospheric weight we’ve come to expect from the band, even if the instruments have changed. The horns on “Dead Butterflies” only magnify the epic nature of one of the band’s most anthemic tracks to date, without Carter ever resorting to a scream. Here, Josh Middleton’s guitar sends the track’s bridge through the roof as opposed to bringing the house down.

Yet for those that wish to hear the band flex their muscle, there’s still plenty to be found. Look no further than mammoth-sized riffs that open tracks like “An Ordinary Extinction” and “Goliath”. The opening verse of “Discourse is Dead” finds Carter shredding his vocal chords atop Middleton and drummer Dan Searle’s chaos, screaming, “Oh it just won’t calculate, a prophesy with a twist / Do you really think Christ was a capitalist?” The heaviness arrives in doses, but when it does, as on the bridge of “Goliath”, it’s breathtaking.

But what truly brings these parts together and turns great moments into a great album is purpose. Carter shares the album’s thesis early on during the pre-chorus of “Black Lungs” as he asks, “What would you do to stay alive if the planet was burning?” Throughout For Those That Wish to Exist, Architects take aim at institutions that wield their power for profit, endangering the future of our species and the survival of our home. On “Giving Blood”, a track that perhaps best showcases the band’s new sonic direction, Carter sings, “Well there’s your eulogy / The water’s polluted / My feathers caught in the spill / Nobody said it would be safe up here”. 

Throughout the album, the band takes special aim at religion and its insistence on ignoring the problem in favor of the promise of an exit to somewhere heavenly. On “Little Wonder”, Carter sings, “If we miss the deadline, we can always blame the divine” before later offering a reprimand: “Nobody could say with a straight face / They didn’t have it coming”. On “Black Lungs” he growls, “You’re gonna taste the ash, you’re gonna taste the dust / ‘Cause this world is dying in our arms”.

For all of the righteous anger found on the album, as the title suggests, the ultimate call to arms of For Those That Wish to Exist is one of personal nature. The idea that every one of us has a decision to make, and collectively, we can make an impact. “Yeah I know that Rome was overthrown, but it wasn’t done alone” sings Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr on “Little Wonder”. On the delicate acoustic closer “Dying is Absolutely Safe”, the band paint an apocalyptic picture, with Carter singing, “It takes a fierce grace to crack us open / A moment sat with our sentencing / And the light comes flooding in / When the leaves fall in the spring”.

For Those That Wish to Exist is an album that benefits from repeated spins, which allow the sonic ebbs and flows to bring a greater picture into view. The only thing holding the album back is its 58-minute run time. With the subtraction of two or three tracks (starting with “Demi God” – the band’s first bad song since Daybreaker), and the album becomes another masterpiece. With that in mind, go forth and make the For Those That Wish to Exist playlist that suits you.

Time will tell how we place the album amongst some of the more colossal releases in the band’s catalogue. But For Those That Wish to Exist is a commanding step into a new era for Architects and one that should satisfy longtime fans of the band while offering an open door for more to join the journey. The legacy of Architects remains one of strength, purpose, and resolve – something that is solidified by this new chapter.

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 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 Observatory Kicks Off with “Lost in the Sound of Separation”

I attended a concert on Friday. Sure, I wasn’t standing front row in a sweaty venue, camera in tow, earplugs in place, absorbing the experience amidst a sea of other fans. But I still enjoyed every second.

Underoath, who recently completed a live-streamed Twitch series breaking down each of their albums, have begun a string of three shows on consecutive Fridays titled Underoath Observatory. Each show will explore one album in its entirety. The event kicked off with Lost in the Sound of Separation and will be followed by Define the Great Line on July 24 and They’re Only Chasing Safety on July 31.

Aaron Gillespie (screengrab by Twitter user @jmcjmc451)

This experience was obviously a no-brainer for me. Although I’ve seen the band live nine times, I never turn down another opportunity if it’s within driving distance. And this Friday’s performance of Lost in the Sound of Separation – my favorite album from my favorite band – is something I’ve been waiting on for a long time.

Two years ago, on the album’s 10th anniversary, I pondered why the album hasn’t been given a fair shake alongside Define and Safety since the band’s reunion. I was fortunate to see Underoath during their headlining tour for Separation in 2008, but even then, several key songs from the album (including my favorite, “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine”) were left off the playlist. Having the chance to see the album performed in whole, filling in the gaps on my “Underoath Songs I’ve Seen Live” bingo card, was something I couldn’t pass up.

Spencer Chamberlain (screengrab by Twitter user @jmcjmc451)

The band has long been heralded as a great live act, putting more effort than most into their on-stage production. Seeing Underoath live is more than just seeing the six members perform on stage. Each tour is like its own piece of performance art. And in typical fashion, the band has spared no effort in this endeavor. Thankfully for fans, so many musicians have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to explore live-streamed performances, but Underoath Observatory is on another level.

From the lightning to the camera work to the fantastic quality of the sound production, Friday night’s performance felt every bit like experiencing the band up close and personal (minus the sweat and ear-ringing). Each track felt special, but seeing the band explore songs never performed on stage was a delight. The liberty the band took on album closer “Desolate Earth: The End is Here” may have been a highlight.

But then again, it’s hard to pick one moment. About an hour after the stream ended, the rendered video from the performance was put online for ticket-purchasers to re-visit. Without hesitation, I poured myself another drink and relived the experience again.

In times like this, we savor every opportunity we can find to cherish our favorite music. It’s not lost on fans how important it is to support the artists we love who have lost their ability to make a living on the road. If you’re a fan of Underoath (or heavy music, in general), you can still grab tickets to the next two performances at UnderoathObservatory.com. And don’t forget to snag a vinyl copy of one of the three albums.

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!

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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.

Issues Return with New Single “Tapping Out”

I’ll be honest – with three years passing since their last album and the loss of vocalist Michael Bohn in 2018, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that Issues were hanging it up. What a treat then to receive new music in the form of single “Tapping Out” last Friday.

I’ve been a fan of Issues since their inception in 2012 when the band formed from the ashes of Woe, Is Me’s first fallout. While the Black Diamonds EP showed their potential, it was 2014’s self-titled debut album that has remained a summer staple of mine. Full of infectious hooks from Tyler Carter and a manic blend of pop, electronic and metalcore, Issues is the kind of album you can let down your guard with and have a good time.

“Tapping Out” feels like it has the potential to tap back into (no pun intended) that kind of energy – something that felt lacking from the band’s 2016 follow-up Headspace. For over a year, fans have wondered what this band would become with Bohn’s absence, and unsurprisingly, Carter holds his own here atop a track as heavy as any the band has written. Sure, the screaming is nearly gone, but those drop-D tuned guitars provide a nostalgic crunch that keeps your head nodding.

It’s clear that Tyler and company have some bones to pick, and it’s likely that the as-of-now unannounced third album will dig deeper into those feelings. Regardless of what’s to follow, it’s exciting to know that Issues are still here and still capable of writing the kinds of songs that make you want to turn up the volume and roll down your windows. Take a listen to “Tapping Out” below and hear for yourself.

You can download “Tapping Out” here.

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: A Day to Remember – Homesick

The largest crowd I ever saw for a performance at Warped Tour was for A Day to Remember at Indianapolis in 2009. That afternoon, I watched from the top of a small hillside, looking down into a grassy valley where the Hurley Stage sat as a massive crowd moshed like a single organism. It was out of a fear of missing out that I downloaded Homesick a day later to see what all the fuss was about. I burned the album to a CD, which remained in my car stereo for the rest of the summer.

You can buy or stream Homesick on Apple Music.

I was obviously aware of A Day to Remember prior to that sweltering afternoon in 2009. A few different friends had played me various tracks from the band’s debut, For Those Who Have Heart, but none of them stuck. In those early days, I viewed A Day to Remember as a diet knock-off of the bands I loved, like Underoath, Chiodos, or Story of the Year. I’m still not totally sure I was wrong, but there was something about the way things came together for the band on their sophomore breakthrough that just made sense.

You don’t need a 10-year retrospective to tell you that Homesick found the perfect balance of metalcore and pop punk, full of silly breakdowns and one-liners topped off by sugary choruses. It’s an album that quite literally set the tone for the next 10 years of the scene, and it did so simply by having fun.

Truth be told, A Day to Remember would further perfect the very sound they helped turn into trend with later albums like What Separates Me from You and Common Courtesy, but even so, there’s still not a single album of theirs that puts a smile on my face quite like Homesick. From front to back, I know the words to every song and can perfectly synchronize my head banging to every cheesy breakdown. If you haven’t shouted along to Jeremy McKinnon’s cry of, “Disrespect Your Surroundings!” with a friend in the car on a summer drive, have you really lived?

Some of my personal favorite tracks include sing-along choruses, like those found on “My Life for Hire”, “NJ Legion Iced Tea”, or “Holdin’ it Down for the Underground”. Whether the band is flexing their drop D tuned guitars on “You Already Know What You Are” or taking a poppier approach on “Homesick” or “Have Faith in Me”, the album truly serves as an intersection for fans of almost any corner of the scene. Even those that sneered at the band or posted grouchy retorts on online message boards were probably secretly into this record, right?

Unlike many of our retrospective features, I’m not here to tell you what a deep emotional impact Homesick made on me or how it changed the way I listened to music. Instead, Homesick served its purpose in helping me put my guard down and drop my tendencies toward music snobbery. Sometimes music is at its best when it’s helping us have a good time, enjoy good company, and sing aloud with abandon.

That’s what I remember most about that Warped Tour performance. As Mike Hranica from The Devil Wears Prada joined the band onstage for the bridge of “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” and the crowd went absolutely bonkers, I remember being struck by how something so seemingly mundane could be so communal and joyful. A Day to Remember had a knack for breaking down walls between music fans of various genres and bringing them together. I’m glad I decided to join in on the fun.

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.

Review: Architects – Holy Hell

“Into the night we burn and rage / In death we repay for time on this stage / The lights are bright, but don’t lose your way / ‘Cause once it ignites, the flame must decay”

It’s nearly impossible to approach Holy Hell objectively. The eighth full-length studio album from British metalcore giants Architects lives entirely in the aftermath of guitarist and lead songwriter Tom Searle’s passing in 2016 after a three-year battle with skin cancer. As such, it’s a deeply emotional and personal document. Even so, its excellence in craft cannot be denied.

You can buy or stream Holy Hell on Apple Music.

From a broad perspective, Holy Hell is an unsurprising crash course in the complexity and devastation of grief. At times, it reads like a letter from Searle’s brother, and Architects’ drummer, Dan. At others, it dwells in the depths of sorrow, desperately searching for a path forward. On a molecular level, it almost inexplicably manages to build and evolve on a sound the band had presumably perfected in recent years.

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us solidified Architects as titans of metalcore, as if more proof was needed. Unbeknownst to listeners upon its release, that album allowed the late Searle to explore his fate in painful detail. “Death is Not Defeat”, the opening track of Holy Hell finds Dan responding to his brother’s final lyrics, acknowledging the pain of a finite existence, while gripping tightly to hope: “Now you’re finally complete / I will see you where oceans meet”.

We could spend the remainder of this review exploring the beauty of Dan Searle’s lyrics and uncanny ability to capture the journey of grief  – and there are no shortage of moments to share. But it’s all brought to life through a band stretching itself and allowing their collective pain to forge a path forward.

New guitarist Josh Middleton makes his presence felt throughout, whether it be found in surprisingly melodic riffs during the opening moments of the album’s title track or in the band’s signature mathematic breakdowns on singles “Hereafter” and “Modern Misery”. Throughout Holy Hell, the band sprinkle in elements, such as dark synthesizers and stringed instruments that blend gently into the mix, adding emotion without sounding out of place. These additions take tracks like album closer “A Wasted Hymn” to a deeper place than the band has ever been able to explore.

Atop it all, Sam Carter, long considered one of the genre’s best vocalists, delivers his finest performance. Here, Carter finds new ways to splinter, be it delicately, as on “Royal Beggars” or in outright fury as on “The Seventh Circle”. On the former, Carter fights through sorrow while singing, “Royal beggars / Do you wanna / Live forever / Alone?” On “Seventh Circle”, Carter shreds his vocal chords non-stop for 1:30 as he helplessly bellows, “I feel the blood drip from my face / Maybe it’s better to never have been”. One can only imagine the scene in the studio while putting such a performance to tape.

Carter’s ability to evolve as a vocalist, transcending the traditional role of metalcore frontman, is made even more extraordinary when considering the circumstances. On back-to-back albums, he has been tasked with delivering a surreptitious farewell and then the mournful response of the bereaved. It must be the kind of responsibility that allows one to tap into parts of themselves they never knew existed. It has resulted in the kind of work that defines a career.

In the face of such loss, it would have been understandable had the remaining members of Architects chosen to walk away. That they chose to carry on is laudable. That they were able to take their collective grief and infuse it into something so life affirming, beautiful and real is inspiring. The band’s excellence is no longer debatable. Architects stand among the elite in modern metalcore.

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.

The Devil Wears Prada Turn Back the Clock for Anniversary Tour

The Devil Wears Prada have been a part of my life for over a decade, first as a kind of scene-core guilty pleasure and later as a band that expanded my heavy music palate. Attending the 10th anniversary tour for the band’s third studio album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, serves as a reminder of how far the band has evolved and how much I still enjoy those cheesy early moments.

I remember hearing Mike Hranica’s shriek of, “I know a ghost!” followed by the br00talist of breakdowns while attending Warped Tour in 2009, thinking this was what heavy music was supposed to sound like. In a matter of two years, the band’s Zombie EP and Dead Throne would make tracks from With Roots Above sound silly. Even so, revisiting the album leading up to the show and witnessing the anniversary tour itself reminded me how much fun these songs really are.

Fit for a King

In support of the tour, Prada brought along noise rockers ’68, featuring Josh Scogin, formerly of The Chariot and Norma Jean, and Fit For a King, another metalcore act currently five albums deep into a run with Solid State Records, the new home for The Devil Wears Prada. Both set the table well for a night of guttural screams and bass-heavy breakdowns.

After a five song introduction, which includes the band’s recent cover of Julien Baker’s “Sour Breath”, Prada kicks into Roots. What I’m first struck by is how fun it is to sing along to these songs, particularly guitarist/clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster’s parts. Midway through opening track “Sassafras”, the crowd joins as a choir for Depoyster’s lines of, “What should we ask for? Who should we turn to / If all we know is burning bridges?” It’s a wonderful blast from the past and a delightful preview of what’s in store.

The Devil Wears Prada

Indeed, the crowd is invested and involved, especially for tracks like “Dez Moines”, “Danger: Wildman”, and even the band’s softest track, “Louder Than Thunder”. Each of the album’s 11 tracks features at least one moment that brings the crowd alive – a clear signal of what makes an album special 10 years after its release.

While it’s true that the band would never write parts like the goofy keyboard interlude on “Big Wiggly Style” or default to such cringeworthy song titles post-2009, With Roots Above and Branches Below still serves as a time capsule, marking the moment when The Devil Wears Prada stood atop the scene. Their later work would explore the boundaries of modern metalcore before investigating more ambient and experimental rock sounds, pushing them beyond the Warped Tour crowd and placing them amongst new peers.

It’s almost hard to believe that the band I remember discovering as a group of hungry teenagers is now six full length albums and two EPs deep into their career. While I’ll never hesitate to dive into whatever The Devil Wears Prada releases, I’m grateful for a night allowing me to travel back to an album I had largely written off, forgetting that sometimes it’s okay to head bang to a silly breakdown with a smile on your face.

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.

Review: Blessthefall – Hard Feelings

There’s something to be said for sticking to your guns. The metalcore scene, once overpopulated with lookalikes, has begun to thin as today’s scene bands explore new (and old) heavy music territory. As the era of brutal breakdowns and guttural screams begins to fade, here stands Blessthefall – purveyors of a once exploding genre and perhaps our lasting example of its excellence.

You can buy Hard Feelings on Apple Music.

In the years to come, Blessthefall’s narrative will be told as one of consistency. In 2009, Witness shrugged away the naysayers after their original vocalist fled and crafted an early playbook for the coming decade’s melodic metalcore. After 2011’s Awakening failed to expand on that effort, 2013 brought Hollow Bodies, arguably one of the genre’s finest releases. With 2015’s To Those Left Behind, the band once again tweaked their formula, remaining one of the scene’s revered acts.

All that to say, Blessthefall has had a strong run. With over a decade in the books, it’s fair to feel fatigued with the idea of another similar sonic serving, especially in light of the band’s recent signing with Rise Records, a label intertwined with the genre’s success. But Hard Feelings seems to usurp that notion – it’s an album that sounds every bit like the Blessthefall you’ve always known, but is chock full of both nostalgia and new tricks that keep you on your toes.

Album opener “Wishful Sinking” quickly unveils new electronic programming and synthesizers that match the band’s glossy new neon visual aesthetics. Just as the expected breakdown hits at the 3:30 mark, the track’s tight production jumps the shark with sharp, glitchy cuts that make you reach for the rewind button. When’s the last time a breakdown made your ears perk up? As the moments we once lived for grow tired, Blessthefall has uncovered something new.

On “Feeling Low”, the band borrows Saosin’s signature guitar squeal to breathe new life into their riffs. It’s a track that harkens a past era of post-hardcore while still managing to feel fresh thanks to a delightfully sing-able chorus, tight production, and a new take on Blessthefall’s aggressive technical prowess.

These juxtaposing concepts particularly pervade the album’s back half, with tracks like “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” and “Sleepless in Phoenix” serving as pulsing, upbeat tracks that never defer to an unnecessary heavy crunch. Yes, there are still breakdowns, but the bulk of the band’s music forces you to key in on new features and ideas that have shifted the balance. Frankly, the band’s melodic moments are more frequent and far more compelling.

For all of the subtle tonal shifts across Hard Feelings, nothing stands quite as stark as vocalist Beau Bokan, who has officially delivered his best performance. No longer structured as the soaring medicine to bassist Jared Warth’s scalding screams, Bokan is free to test new waters. Take “Sakura Blues”, where Bokan delivers a quiet opening verse at a lower register while gracefully inserting his falsetto. It’s a simple exercise in theory, but it makes his driving chorus all the more compelling and offers another welcome progression to the band’s sound.

Tucked neatly inside of all of this, and easily missed, is the band’s strongest trait of all. Hard Feelings explores a variety of moods and emotions, aggressively tackling messy life circumstances and relationships, but its default mode is one of hope. From the cry out for relief on “Keep Me Close” to the familiar pang for family and love on “Welcome Home”, the band leaves the door open for resolution. Bokan’s daughter Rocket adorably joins her dad for the album’s final refrain of, “It’s not living if I’m not living with you”.

With that kind of closing, it’s almost possible to imagine Blessthefall riding into the sunset with Hard Feelings as their swan song. If that were to be the case, the band could hang their hat on over a decade of output that guided the course for a scene during its heyday, standing as one of its most respected acts. But let’s drop the conjecture – on its own, Hard Feelings is a worthy addition to the Blessthefall catalogue, a shift in sound that feels fresh and authentic, and further proof of the band’s commitment to its craft.

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 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.