DAVID BEE ROTH BEGRUDGINGLY ADMITS: THE NEW UNDEROATH ALBUM IS PRETTY GOOD
I will be the first to admit that Underoath are a band that were judged by closed-minded, ultra-critical, pretentious metal heads like myself long before I even heard one note being played. Instead I heard “Christian” and “emo” and got a brief glimpse of their fan base. That was all I needed to declare “I probably wouldn’t like them” and move on, sifting through the heavy music morass for something else, never to give them a second thought until my very recent exposure to their newest record Lost in the Sound of Separation.
Surprise! Being instantly judgmental of a band’s hair style and personal beliefs has once again set me up to be disappointed when I can’t spend a whole page lampooning their art. Instead I am forced to begrudgingly admit that this is something of quality.
I was rather convinced that the majority of post-hardcore music had devolved into bands copying successful bands and then self-replicating ad nauseam like so many scenes and flash-in-the-pan sub-genres, but Underoath have a healthy enthusiasm for bands that pre-empted all of it. As I listen to Sound of Separation, I’m pleasantly surprised by how often I’m reminded of Refused and the last At the Drive-in record. At key points Underoath reveal both a progressive shade in the development of some songs and a more traditional, hard line approach.
In fact, perhaps the strongest feature of this album is the variety in moods and tones that we are subjected to. Two of the best tracks on the album, “A Fault Line A Fault of Mine” and “The End is Near,” both break into post-rock sounding interludes that gradually build to a chaotic climax. I was reminded of a less-patient Cult of Luna or Mogwai more than a few times. “Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear” is easily the most melodic song on the album but you’ll be allured by the comforting unison vocals and the sounds of clapping hands. Underoath demonstrate that they have put way more thought into their song-craft than my initial dismissal could ever have given them credit for.
The vocal duties are divided between Spencer Chamberlain’s high-strung growls and drummer Aaron Gillespie’s Cedric Bixler impersonation. Neither one tries to oversell his parts, which removes the thick scum of melodrama that makes so many of their peers’ work un-listenable. There’s also no gratuitous use of autotune or other studio magic, which is surprising considering what a slickly produced album this is. Often times you will hear individual instrument tracks pan to different sides of your headphones, volume adjustments from the beginning of the song and other small, but extremely noticeable, bits of Pro-Tools tinkering. While I’ll always be a purist for raw sounds, this style of production is appropriate for Underoath as it makes their sound larger than life, like this CD alone could fill up a stadium if you played it.
Any further picking into this album’s faults would be criticisms you could level at any number of other modern metal release: the middle of the album lost my interest, the aggressive sections aren’t as interesting as the melodic ones, and the Christian imagery and symbolism is transparent. Rather than dispense any punishment upon these fine, upstanding lads for this mature, impressive work, perhaps I’ll play the savior today and take some punishment upon myself:
Everyone, I listened to the new Underoath album and I liked it. Metal, do not forsake me!
(3.5 out of 5 Stars)