Underoath and Fever 333 Hit the Road with Korn and Alice in Chains

The first time I saw Underoath was nearly 15 years ago at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At the time, the Tampa post-hardcore act was riding high off their breakthrough record, They’re Only Chasing Safety, and you could have argued that the sold out crowd, which went bonkers the entire night, represented what would be the height of the band’s popularity.

Since then, Underoath has released multiple gold records, landed at #2 on the Billboard 100, toured the world multiple times over, become one of the most influential bands in hardcore, broke up, and reunited, only to achieve even more success. This summer, a year after the release of their comeback album Erase Me, the band has landed a slot on Korn and Alice and Chain’s massive summer tour. You can’t make this stuff up.

Fever 333

Fever 333

The night Indianapolis began with an old friend. Since the disbandment of letlive. three years ago, vocalist Jason Aalon Butler has achieved newfound success in the form of Fever 333 – a rock band hellbent on getting their message across. That message, consisting largely of giving a voice to the marginalized, is soundtracked by ripping guitars and Butler’s signature flair on stage. It only took a few short songs before he found his way down into the pit and out into the audience, screaming toward onlookers seated on the lawn.

The band’s 2019 full-length debut, Strength in Numb333rs, as well as their 2018 EP, Made an America, are both full of fire, and songs like “One of Us” and “Trigger” are enough to wake up the early birds in attendance. Butler’s stage presence feels just as authentic in an amphitheater as it does at a club show, with the singer bounding and bellowing across the stage. It’s clear that the rock community at large has taken notice of Fever 333, and we’re all the better for it.

On this tour, Underoath finds themselves in a unique situation as opener, playing largely in front of an audience who is unaware of their history. While Erase Me has obviously opened new doors for the band and introduced them to an entirely new community of rock fans, they’re still newcomers in the eyes of mainstream listeners. It seems obvious then, that tracks from Erase Me dominate the setlist.

Underoath

Underoath

The band still finds time to sneak in performances of fan favorites “Writing on the Walls” and “Breathing in a New Mentality”, but everything else is fresh material. “On My Teeth”, which snagged a Grammy nomination earlier this year, leads the set, followed by a recently released b-side titled “Loneliness”, which is one of the best tracks the band has penned since their return.

Interestingly, the band sidesteps recent singles “Bloodlust” and “Wake Me” in favor of the more heavier tracks from their new album. “Hold Your Breath” and “Sink With You”, in particular, seem to reel the crowd in, while a brief slow down for “ihateit” invites some onlookers to sing along. At one point, vocalist Spencer Chamberlain asks the crowd, “Who here is seeing us for the very first time?” I look around me as most of the crowd inside the Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center amphitheater raise their hands. It’s a site I never would have imaged all those years ago in Tulsa.

Korn and Alice in Chains, both with well over two decades of experience end relevancy, and both with recent new releases, obviously highlight the night for the packed crowd. It’s a stark reminder of the divide between mainstream rock and the underground, especially when music from the scene has at times felt like the last stand for rock as a whole.

Still, both Butler and Chamberlain take time on stage to share stories from their youth about how these bands impacted and shaped them. If it weren’t for Korn, would Butler have ever grabbed a microphone? If not for Alice in Chains, would Chamberlain have ever found his voice? It’s interesting to ponder, but regardless, it’s impressive as hell to see these two worlds collide.

 

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.

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Underoath’s Return Has Been the Best Kind of Comeback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Dan Newman

by Kiel Hauck

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

Reflecting On: Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Kiel Hauck

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

The Unmatched Urgency of Underoath on No Fix Tour

Before last week, I’d never set foot in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and although my sightseeing while inside city limits was minuscule, it did offer an opportunity to keep things fresh. My attendance at the No Fix Tour represented my 8th time seeing Underoath live, now in six different cities.

I say this as a biased fan, but also as someone who has now attended more concerts that I can easily recount: Underoath consistently puts on one of the best live performances on the planet. Their latest stop at Piere’s Entertainment Center, a relatively nondescript mid-sized venue in the middle of Indiana, was still cause for wonder and respect, even after all these years.

Underoath

Even aside from my own fan-boy outpouring, the spectacle of Underoath’s live performance is well documented. What often seems to go unspoken is their ability to stack the bill. Over the years, I’ve seen Underoath bring along bands like As Cities Burn, Every Time I Die, mewithoutYou, letlive., Saosin, The Devil Wears Prada, and the list goes on. The build-up to the main event is always worth watching.

The No Fix Tour once again provides a fresh group of faces for Underoath fans. Limbs, Veil of Maya, and Dance Gavin Dance all provide a worthy warm-up for heavy music fans with a diverse set of sounds. The early rounds are truly won by Dance Gavin Dance, a band in the midst of their own renaissance, ready to drop a new album this year as they roar into their second decade.

PODCAST: Listen to our interview with Chris Dudley of Underoath on the band’s No Fix Tour

Yet, once again, Underoath has a way of making the lead-up feel pedestrian as they take the stage to flashing lights, shadowy synthesizers, and scattered images flashing across the screen behind them. When Spencer Chamberlain takes the mic, unleashing the opening screams of “On My Teeth”, pandemonium ensues.

Underoath

What makes this latest trek for Underoath so exciting is the potential for exploration. The band’s Rebirth Tour focused on two albums from 2004 and 2006, while this current tour celebrates the release of Erase Me while still making room for tracks from other albums like Lost in the Sound of Separation and Ø (Disambiguation). The night is structured around new tracks, but is littered with fan favorites and unsung tracks from the past.

For a band so tied to the nostalgic memories of fans, it’s a treat to watch the crowd sing along to new songs like “Rapture”, “No Frame” and “Bloodlust”. Even unexpected performances of tracks like “A Moment Suspended in Time” and “Paper Lung” elicit delight from the crowd. For a band with such a deep well of diverse tracks to draw from, it makes every performance fresh and exciting, no matter how many shows you’ve attended.

While it’s true that golden oldies like “Writing on the Walls” and “Reinventing Your Exit” still steal the show, there’s no denying that this new incarnation of Underoath is moving forward. Their shows consist of polite nods to the past coupled with a renewed energy to expand their sound and their audience – all while playing with a sense of urgency that is unmatched by their peers. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be a while before I tire of seeing Underoath live.

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: Hiding in The Subterranean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Short, sweet chaos.

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

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

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by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and got into a Secret show. He is officially cool. Don’t take that away from him…. Please?

Review: Underoath – Erase Me

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

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

You can buy Erase Me on Apple Music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

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

Photo credit: Nick Fancher

Underoath to Return with New Album?

UPDATE: Underoath are back! Check out the music video for “On My Teeth”.

Yesterday, a cryptic website emerged with a 30-second audio clip and a countdown that can be revealed by brushing away the text “ERASE ME”. Some fans received a CD in the mail with the same audio clip and billboards with the “ERASE ME” text began popping up in a few cities.

Some quick internet detective work revealed who appears to be behind the mystery: Underoath. The Florida metalcore giants are suspected to release a new single tomorrow afternoon with a forthcoming album, Erase Me, projected to release this spring.

After reuniting in 2015 for a tour, the band has been playing select festivals around the country but has not given much information about the possibility of releasing new music. Nevertheless, it felt like only a matter of time before the sextet returned to the studio to record a proper follow up to 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation).

Excited for new Underoath music? Us, too. Until tomorrow, we wait.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Underoath – Define the Great Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Kiel Hauck

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

Underoath Return From the Shadows on Rebirth Tour

underoath-rebirth-splash

Nearly three and a half years have passed since Chicago crowded into Metro, an intimate venue in Wrigleyville, to say farewell to Underoath. That night passed all too quickly – an uncomfortable goodbye to a band that didn’t seem quite ready to let go, even as every sound bite and interview pointed to the contrary. The documentary that followed, Tired Violence, showed a band in distress, fighting against the fractures that time creates.

It’s almost surreal then to stand amidst a sold out crowd at Riviera Theatre as the lights go down, the crowd roars, and one of the most powerful and influential post-hardcore bands on the planet makes their grand return.

In truth, the pangs of heartbreak in light of Underoath’s untimely departure hadn’t even passed for many fans by the time the band announced their return late last year. They say time heals all wounds – apparently some wounds require much less time than others. What’s so pleasant about this rebirth, as the band calls it, is that nothing feels forced. It’s a team effort in which everyone seems truly happy to be together again.

Underoath

Underoath

As the Rebirth tour hits Chicago, it’s stunning to witness the response. Riviera Theatre is over twice the size of Metro, but on this night, it’s packed to capacity – breathing room is a luxury reserved for the outdoors. Given the turnout, you’d be inclined to assume the band had been absent for decades. On this night, the buzz in the building rivals that of the band’s initial breakout in the summer of 2004.

Part of the appeal surely lies in the offering. This isn’t a greatest hits tour, per say. Instead, Underoath is playing their two most popular albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line, in their entirety. Several songs have never been played live. As two of the most influential post-hardcore albums in recent memory, it’s a special night, indeed.

The only question is, how does the band’s performance hold up three years removed from practice and six years removed from original drummer and singer Aaron Gillespie? Pardon the hyperbole, but the answer is: better than ever.

Hearing They’re Only Chasing Safety in this setting is a nostalgia trip of the highest order. As Spencer opens “Young and Aspiring” with the cry of, “Let’s not even try, you’re right / Let’s ball it up and throw it out the window”, the crowd roars the lyrics in unison. It’s incredible to see the band perform these songs all these years later, mostly because the band’s performance has improved so much since those early days.

Underoath rips through Safety, only stopping after the final notes of “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” to address the crowd. Hearing tracks like “Down, Set, Go!” and “I’m Content With Losing” performed for the first time is a wonderful nod to the past. As two of the most enjoyable Safety tracks to sing along to, it’s still shocking that they’ve never made their way to the stage until now.

Underoath

Underoath

They’re Only Chasing Safety was a gateway drug for many, introducing legions of fans to not only Underoath, but to heavy music. In hindsight, it was a primer for everything that came to follow. After a short break, the band returns to the stage to launch into Define the Great Line, their groundbreaking follow-up. The transition from melodic screamo to ambient post-metal is jarring. Safety is a fun record, but Define marks the moment that Underoath dropped the gloves. It’s a magnificent piece of art in its own right, but in a live performance, it’s absolutely soul-rattling.

From the opening moments of “In Regards to Myself” to the final whispers of “To Whom it May Concern”, Underoath are in rare form. Guitarist Tim McTague and keyboardist Chris Dudley bounce about the stage with youthful energy, harkening back to the band’s early days. The complexities of Define’s track list allow Gillespie to flex his muscles behind the kit, even throwing in some extra fills when appropriate. During the final moments of “Writing on the Walls”, perhaps the band’s most beloved song, the crowd becomes a choir, led gracefully by Gillespie toward the song’s crushing conclusion.

Coupling the performance itself, the band’s trademark lights and visuals grace the stage. Screens showing accompanying short films and imagery play along with the music, offering an additional element to the auditory experience. While Underoath could have easily ran through this tour on the music alone, it’s this extra care for their craft that has always set the band apart. It’s nearly impossible to leave feeling disappointed.

Throughout the evening, Chamberlain will sporadically address the crowd, mostly sharing how happy the band is to be together again. “None of us thought this would ever happen,” is stated on multiple occasions. Whatever the reasons for the band’s initial demise, and whatever their reasons for reconciliation, is of little concern. Seeing the sextet on stage once more is enough to wash away any lingering apprehension.

When Underoath stepped away in 2013, it left a gaping void in the post-punk scene, mostly because it felt like the band still had life left in the tank. Whether this current rebirth leads to new music or simply offers an outlet for the members to keep playing the songs we all know by heart, it just feels right to have Underoath back in the mix. Judging from the turnout on their current tour, they’ll be welcomed with open arms for however long they choose to stay.

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.

Most Anticipated of 2016: #3 Underoath’s Unlikely Return

underoath-2015

They’re Only Chasing Rebirth

As post-hardcore finds itself at a crossroads, one of the genre’s linchpins has returned from the abyss. Yes, Underoath have kept their responses on the possibility of new music ambiguous, but with a full U.S. headlining tour slated for this spring, it’s impossible not to be excited by the potential.

It’s quite true that Underoath has nothing left to prove. The post-hardcore sextet left their mark on the scene over the course of their 16-year existence, dropping some of the most influential and important albums the genre has seen. Two of those albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line, will be performed in their entirety each night of their upcoming tour.

Just the chance to hear Spencer Chamberlain’s roar alongside Aaron Gillespie’s croon once again is more than most of us could have ever asked for, making their Rebirth tour (and reunion with drummer Gillespie) compelling enough. After last year’s heartbreaking self-released film, “Tired Violence”, who would have expected such a quick reconciliation when the inner-band pain appeared so palpable? Time will tell if all wounds are truly healed.

The band has made no promises on their future and has not ruled anything out, either. Whether this grand reunion is the long farewell that never happened when the band took their final bow in 2013 or a rekindling of a much-needed fire in the scene remains to be seen. Either way, the anticipation is killing us.

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.