Review: Pianos Become the Teeth – Drift

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I put a lot of trust into bands I consider to be core artists for me. I’ve done a lot of preordering of albums this year, just believing that the albums will arrive at my doorstep on release day and sweep me off my feet. Drift by Pianos Become the Teeth didn’t really do that for me this time.

Pianos has been one of my favorite post-hardcore outfits for a while now, since their release of Keep You in 2015, a truly seminal album for me. In 2018, they released my year-end favorite with Wait for Love. I guess I liked the idea of a band that kept evolving; but now I’m wondering if they’ve evolved too much – maybe even regressed a bit? Drift doesn’t lack emotion, but I feel it lacks substance.

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You can buy or stream Drift on Apple Music

The album starts off with “Out of Sight” a haunting, almost a capella track that sets the tone well. When I first tossed the disc in after peeling the plastic away and put my car in drive, I thought I would be in for Wait for Love part two, where we keep walking with Kyle Durfey and the guys as they move forward with their family life, and I was sad to see that maybe things haven’t gone as planned.

What shocks me most about this album is the bare bones writing. Lines are repetitive where they were once lush and full of artistry. The track “Easy” ends with “This is all there is”, and that’s a good way to describe the writing style here. Minimal. The band do make up for it with some of the musical choices, a very blurry, dreamy landscape of sound, but when you’re used to a full combination platter from a band, it’s hard to not see things missing. 

My favorite track here is “The Days”. It feels like a Wait for Love B-side, with a little bit of a darker undertone. Lines like “But I’m writing down everything you say for my dementia days” are the gut punch, visceral lyrics I’ve come to appreciate from the guys, and this is an album where those moments are few and far between.

The album is cohesive; I’ll give it that. And I feel like this is an album that taking a break from will cause me to return with fresh eyes and see what they were going for. They have leaned heavily into the shoegaze genre here, surpassing the post-hardcore sound completely. They used an Echoplex in production, which does lend that watery, easy feeling. The production is as good as it always is on their projects, and that is a redemptive quality for me.

I’m not against a band that wants to do something different on each of their albums. I think it can be a good exercise in creativity and keeping things fresh and exciting as both an artist and a fan. When I listen to Drift though, I get that they’ve definitely changed, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for the better. As they repeatedly say in “Mouth”, “We are not who we used to be”. I wish they could go back.

3/5

by Nadia Alves

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

mewithoutYou’s Final Boston Show

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I can hardly believe the title of this article. It feels like forever ago, and I suppose in a way it was, that mewithoutYou posted that fateful update on their website in October 2019 that started with, “By the end of next year mewithoutYou will no longer be active.” It feels like forever ago that the implications of that sentence set in motion one of the most drawn-out goodbyes the scene has witnessed. Of course, it was never intended to go that way, but, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

I almost didn’t get tickets to the final Boston show that happened on August 6th. I had been debating – between saving money and going to shows during a pandemic – whether or not it would be a good idea. Of course, as all of you who follow my music journey here know, I have tunnel vision when it comes to tours. There is only one question, and only one answer: “Are you going to the [insert band name here] show?” “Duh.” So, armed with vax card in hand, I drove up to Paradise Rock Club in Boston to bid one of the most interesting, creative, and beloved bands in the scene goodbye.

Opening for this final leg of the tour was WHY?, generally a five-piece band dropped down to a multitasking two piece. From playing the drums with maracas to swapping their bass guitar back and forth, the unique vibes here were perfect to complement the whimsy of mewithoutYou. I had never listened to WHY? Before, and at first I wasn’t sure how I felt, but by the end of their set I was in awe of how talented they were.

mewithoutYou started promptly at 9pm and played a two hour, career-spanning set. They mostly chose songs from 2004’s Catch for Us the Foxes, most likely to compensate for not doing a 10-year celebration for the album in 2024. They opened with the energetic “Torches Together” and it really showed how united of a fanbase they have. It could only be described as Bacchanal. It was great fun, but you couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness in the air at the prospect of never doing this again. 

The guys stoped between tracks to briefly thank people who made their 20 year tenure as a band possible: their families, sound tech, and bus driver. It was also touching to see all of their kids there for the whole set, enjoying themselves and singing along side stage. Aaron would often use the instrumental breaks in tracks to check in with the kids, getting down on his knees to their level and sharing a joke. The sense of community and love for what they’ve accomplished together was strong.

After plenty of full band time, the other guys left and Aaron came back on stage to sing some acoustic songs, including the song that introduced me to the band, “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie”. They didn’t play that one when I saw them for the first time during the [A→B] Life 10-year tour, and it felt incredible to have that sense of justification and closure in hearing one of my favorite songs during the farewell tour. Halfway through, the rest of the guys joined him for the end with the full band additions, and then they played two more tracks, ending the night officially with “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”.

Even though I’m sad to see mewithoutYou come to an official end, I have faith that this won’t be the last we hear from them. With their level of creativity and just pure joy they clearly get from making music together, I hope the guys will still continue to record and maybe even let us listen in to the next part of their journey. To mewithoutYou I say, “You played the flute / When no one was dancing / You played a sad song / When no one was crying” and made us feel everything in between, and I’ll miss every part of it.

by Nadia Alves

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

Podcast: Interview with Devin Shelton of Emery

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Friday marked the release of Rub Some Dirt On It, the 9th studio album from Emery. Vocalist and bassist Devin Shelton joined Kiel Hauck on the show to talk about the new album and explain how the band’s creative process has evolved over the years. Shelton also discusses the band’s unique history and trajectory, and how their experiences early in their career set them up for a second act that has involved much more than just making music. Devin also talks scene nostalgia, playing shows post-pandemic, and this summer’s upcoming Labeled Fest. Take a listen!

You can buy Rub Some Dirt On It here.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5

by Nadia Alves

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

Underoath Hits the Road with Spiritbox, Bad Omens, and Stray from the Path

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Near the end of their set at The Andrew J. Brady Music Center in downtown Cincinnati last week, Stray from the Path vocalist Andrew Dijorio shared a personal and moving story about his struggle as an isolated artist during the pandemic. Dijorio described being unable to take the stage and perform as resulting in a feeling of having lost his purpose. It’s a sentiment that resonates for all of us in one way or another. But here we were, together again in the kind of setting that can melt those feelings away.

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Stray from the Path

It had been over two years since I last attended an indoor concert like this, and I got the feeling that it was the same case for many others in attendance. It led to an elevated kind of energy that you could feel throughout the night. I actually had butterflies in the photo pit before shooting the sets – something that was a relatively mundane event prior to the pandemic. 

It had actually been so long since this tour was announced that one of the original bands on the lineup no longer exists (R.I.P. Every Time I Die). Nevertheless, the night is a celebration of Underoath’s new album, Voyeurist, along with being a showcase for a few bands on the rise. 

After Stray from the Path, it was Bad Omens turn to take the stage. The band has made a name for themselves in recent years by threading the needle between metalcore and hard rock, concocting something melodic enough for radio but heavy enough to get the pit moving. Vocalist Noah Sebastian is a true showman in the best way. His confidence on stage was a sight to behold, but his vocal performance is what stole the show, especially when the band plays “Never Know” and “Limits” – two tracks that highlight the band’s stellar songwriting and Sebastian’s soaring vocals.

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Spiritbox

Speaking of bands on the rise, in the time since the tour’s announcement, Spiritbox have simply exploded onto the metal scene thanks to the success of their debut, Eternal Blue. No longer the opener, the band could likely be their own headliner very soon. Given that this is their first long trek on the road as a unit, it’s amazing how tight their set is. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were a veteran band (vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Michael Stringer previously toured with iwrestledabearonce). 

LaPlante dominated the night with her powerful vocal performance, rising to the occasion with massive screams on tracks like “Holly Roller” and “Hurt You” while delivering powerhouse cleans on “Blessed Be” and “Constance”. With a setlist only seven tracks deep, it wasn’t hard to be left wanting more. On the band’s final song of the night, “Eternal Blue”, Stringer’s haunting guitar solo at the end of the track capped off a perfect set. 

The night would mark my 10th time seeing Underoath live. What’s left to say at this point? I’ve stated for years that Underoath is one of the best live bands on the planet, and the Voyeurist Tour only adds to the legacy. The band’s catalog is deeper than ever at this point, even with the continued admission of tracks from 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation). Somewhat surprisingly, though, the band’s 15-song set only includes four tracks from the new album. However, Voyeurist opening track “Damn Excuses” allows the band to explode onto the stage, followed by regular show-opener “Breathing in a New Mentality”.

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Underoath

The night is a solid mix of new tracks, fan favorites, and a few rarely performed songs like “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” from Lost in the Sound of Separation and “There Could Be Nothing After This” from Define the Great Line. In the end, it’s hits like “Reinventing Your Exit” and “Writing on the Walls” that get the crowd going, even if the band’s performance of Voyeurist-closer “Pneumonia” is utterly jaw-dropping to experience in person.

By the time you’re reading this, the tour will be completed with two final shows in Underoath’s hometown of Tampa, Florida. In the end, one thing is for certain: both bands and fans felt overjoyed to be back in this setting. The promise of more to come from all involved instills a kind of hope that we can all cling to.

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: Underoath – Voyeurist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5

by Kiel Hauck

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

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.

***

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: Emery – We Do What We Want

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I know what you’re all thinking. Nadia, you’re really going to write about Emery again? Haven’t you said all there is to say about this band? No, friends, I have not, because their magnum opus (at least, what I consider to be their magnum opus) We Do What We Want turns 10 this year.

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You can buy or stream We Do What We Want on Apple Music.

Looking back at the 14-year-old kid just breaking the surface into what would be a decade-plus obsession with the alt scene, never would I have thought I would get a chance to talk about how this album made me feel. I grew up to the sounds of this album, much to the chagrin of my conservative parents, who were none too pleased with the album art — a Bible, with the words “we do what we want” emblazoned across the shiny leather. It was honestly because of the edgy album art that I was so drawn to this body of work, and it remains an oft-played album for me.

I originally wanted to do a crazy, hypothetical piece on how each of the songs could be attributed to the Seven Deadly Sins, but that was quickly tossed out when I realized it was, in fact, not the case. I wanted so badly to have that cohesive lede and pathway to guide me through writing this piece, but as Emery explains so eloquently, they do what they want. And so do we. 

As a now 24-year-old kid married for a couple of years and watching the church culture she steeped herself in like a green tea bag slowly crumbling (oop, pun intended), this album is more refreshing and poignant than ever. Emery’s stark description of sin and falling short of what the church thinks Christianity should look like is more relatable now than I ever could have foreseen it to be. If you’ll notice, we never get preached to directly until the end of the album. The guys in Emery never want to be our pastors and judges, they’re just here to tell us, “Yeah, we get it.” And they do.

At 14, Emery got how I felt about the guys I had a crush on, even though spiritually I knew I could never touch those feelings. They got the guilt I felt being just a little bit sneaky with the music I would listen to with my friends, then going home to my parents and pretending we had plenty of good Christian fun. They got the fact that 10 years later, I would be experiencing an intense feeling of loss for the faith and the culture I once knew. Emery foresaw all of these things because they had gone through them.

When I listened to the album at 14, I didn’t realize how I would relate to “I Never Got to See the West Coast”. I didn’t realize that when I would listen to “The Curse of Perfect Days” I would see it as a soundtrack to my teenage years. I didn’t realize that “Scissors” would end up on a playlist I’d make memorializing my grandmother. 

What remains when I listen to We Do What We Want now is a piece of work so intensely intertwined in my thoughts and my faith (or lack thereof). What remains is the everlasting idea that we, in fact, will do what we want. And when I was 14, doing what I wanted, I was building lasting memories with Emery.

by Nadia Alves

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

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 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.