Underoath

Erase Me

Written by: KW on 26/04/2018 11:33:06

Like many other Underoath fans, I was beyond thrilled when they first announced their return to the stages last year, including a visit to our little Scandinavian country, playing their two most well-known and loved records, “They’re Only Chasing Safety” and “Define The Great Line”, in full at Pumpehuset. It culminated in a show that not only fully satisfied my highly nostalgic cravings for screaming along to “Writing on the Walls” and “Returning Empty Handed”, but also showed that the band still had the energy and talent to put on a great show altogether. So after a successful show, it was not out of the question to hope for finally getting a new record as well — a release that could see the return of Aaron Gillespie back on drum duty and vocals. Well, it took about a year but that wish has finally come true with their first album in 8 years, “Erase Me”. But we all know comeback albums can be a tough endeavour, so how well did it turn out this time around?

Underoath announced the album with the release of their first single, “On My Teeth”, a track that actually made me very hopeful about this release. While certainly taking a more straightforward approach to songwriting than some of their previous material, it starts out with some foreboding synths before breaking into some of that stellar drumming Gillespie is known for, animalistically pounding away while Spencer Chamberlain viciously screams on top. It also includes a great anthemic chorus, with the two vocalists switching back and forth between their lines in a simple yet powerful manner. Just an all around banger of a track that is sure to sound great live.

That hope was put to rest as quickly as it came though, when they released the second track from the album. “Rapture” stands as one of the most generic and downright boring tracks the band has ever released. Bog standard ABABCB songwriting form, uninspired guitar work and weak vocal delivery results in a track that really has no redeeming features to me. You know exactly what’s going to happen throughout before you have even finished listening to it. Now, I’m not saying a simple song structure in itself is a detrimental thing, but you better add something, just something engaging to keep the listener interested. “On My Teeth” offered that, but “Rapture” certainly does not.

Unfortunately, “Rapture” isn’t the only track that follows this completely watered down formula. “Wake Me” contains an unbearably moody pop verse, complete with a lazy three-chord, sad piano. And “ihateit” probably has my least favourite chorus on the whole album. The melody isn’t good, the repeated lyrics are cringeworthy at best, and could we please stop with the obligatory “wooooah wooooah” singalong vocals as in every other arena rock song? It’s getting tiring at this point.

You're the only thing that gets me high and I hate it, and I hate it

(woah)

You're the only thing that gets me high and I hate it, and I hate it

Another glaring problem with this release is the mixing choices when it comes to the guitars. Sometimes it’s barely audible what’s going on in the riffs due to the guitars being drowned in synths and bass, which is especially true on “Wake Me” and “Rapture”. With these songs, it seems Underoath have seen the great success Bring Me The Horizon have garnered with their similarly poppy and mainstream release, “That’s The Spirit”, and wanted a slice of the cake. Bring Me The Horizon just came out on the other side with a stronger album, albeit an album I’m not a huge fan of either.

Now that I’ve had the chance to vent a bit, it should be said that it’s not all that bad. “Sink With You” definitely stands as one of the most Underoath tracks on the album and encapsulates some of the things that made the band great in the past. A heavy main riff meets the listener and the electronic ‘drum ‘n’ bass’ sections also work well in contrast. The outro could have potentially been fantastic but falls a bit short due to the track fading out bafflingly quickly without giving it time to build and become truly epic. “Bloodlust” isn’t the greatest track overall, but contains a pretty powerful chorus from both Spencer and Aaron, and a bridge section that definitely also channels older Underoath outings. The off beat drumming combined with heavy synths and drum machines on “No Frame” makes it one of the more interesting tracks on the album and shows that the band isn’t completely void of new ideas. And album closer, “I Gave Up”, a dark and epic ballad that seems to finally blend this new sound with something recognizable from the past successfully, also has some great moments, with the fractured and decomposing guitar solo being a definite highlight. The vocal melodies are good though the lyrics are once again pretty bland.

Some people have gone so far as to label this new album as the next ‘logical’ step for Underoath and called them a more ‘mature’ band, which is a notion that I highly disagree with. Their last album “Ø (Disambiguation)” saw the band try out new sounds, opting for a much darker and denser approach, an evolution of the band that brought in more maturity and focus on atmosphere rather than the post-hardcore, emo sounds of their past. However, they still retained that edge which made Underoath a thoroughly unique-sounding band in their scene. That edge is all but gone now. I simply don’t hear much on this album that could be classified as remotely unique. Recently, it seems to me that ‘mature’ has become a synonym used when heavier bands opt for more mainstream appeal and arena compatibility, but that doesn’t automatically make the music any good. A friend of mine saw a comment on the new Parkway Drive song, “Prey”, that put it perfectly: ”Why does 'evolving' always have to mean playing stadium rock?”. Right now, all I’m hoping for is that these tracks click a little bit more in a live setting than on record, just like the aforementioned Bring Me The Horizon release did for me.

I guess the stellar album streak Underoath had going had to end sometime. The four albums, that came before this one all pushed the band’s sound in different and interesting directions and while “Erase Me” has also taken a different approach this time around, the result is just massively disappointing. I feel like I might have been more harsh on this release by knowing what the band have been capable of producing in the past. But as it stands right now, this is by far their weakest release since Spencer joined, and it makes me worried about the future of this project.

5

Download: On My Teeth, Sink With You, No Frame, I Gave Up
For the fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Sleepwave, Norma Jean
Listen: Facebook

Release date 06.04.2018
Fearless Records

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