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.