Underoath needs no introduction. If you listened to any form of metal or pop punk in the mid-2000’s, you’ve heard of them. Even if you were into a completely different style of music, odds are you had a few friends who were obsessed. They rode a decent and well-deserved wave of success until their disbanding in 2013. Obviously fans kept asking for the band to reunite, until this February when a new album titled Erase Me was confirmed for release on April 6th through Fearless Records. Considering the fact that their popularity comes with it the weight of high expectations, and that it has been eight years since their last album, Erase Me is likely Underoath‘s most important record since They’re Only Chasing Safety.
“It Has to Start Somewhere” opens the album as returning drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie and vocalist Spencer Chamberlain kick the band off into energetic and nostalgia inducing riffs that show some indication of the group picking up where they left off with Ø (Disambiguation). However, this song is a bit of a misnomer, as this is really the only song on the album that sounds like the Underoath that fans have come to know over the last thirteen years. Nonetheless, it is great to hear Gillespie in the mix again!
The second track -and second single- of Erase Me is “Rapture”. This song is a complete about-face for the band as they embrace a poppy and radio-friendly alt-rock sound that is extremely similar to what Bring Me The Horizon has progressed into, or what Chamberlain explored with his other band Sleepwave. The first noticeable element of change is the heavy use of industrialized 90’s style (Nine Inch Nails) electronics. These find their way into much of the album, and only seem to lessen the impact of Gillespie’s immense drumming talent – in fact, his performance throughout most Erase Me is somewhat subdued. The second major point of change is Chamberlain’s abandonment of his furious scream for gritty and grungy half sung/half yelled vocals, similar to what he utilized for choruses during Gillespie’s absence from Ø. “Rapture” grew on me after a few listens, but other similar tracks like “Wake Me”, “Bloodlust”, “Ihateit”, “Hold Your Breath”, and “In Motion” never took hold.
In spite of this new direction, Erase Me carries over some of the dark atmosphere from Ø (Disambiguation) and is still pretty heavy at times. While most of the tracks build-up to climaxes and choruses that fall flat and lack the heartfelt delivery the band is known for, the first single “On My Teeth” has a punchy, upbeat energy that feels like the band poured their souls into it. “No Frame” is mostly comprised of electronics, clean vocals, and auto tune, but worth the build-up as it closes with an extremely heavy and fuzzed-out riff that sounds like Josh Scogin and the rest of Norma Jean are behind the instruments. “I Gave Up” is a decent finale track whose opening piano and vocal combination resurrects the spirit of Gary Jules‘ “Mad World” before the song swells into a loud and angst-ridden crescendo that is backed by an infectious melody from keyboardist Christopher Dudley.
Ultimately, Erase Me had me compromising with myself, trying to adjust and fine-tune my personal music preferences, all for the sake of the name Underoath. I really wanted to like this album and hoped that it would grow on me, but after a dozen listens I still can’t find much to hold on to here. It’s just not the same band as before. This album will undoubtedly polarize their existing fan base (between those who like BMTH and those who don’t). I’m all for a band’s stylistic progression, but Underoath‘s turn towards grungier, radio-friendly alt-rock feels unnatural and forced; and while this stylistic progression isn’t too far a reach from 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation), Erase Me is lacking most of the conviction and raw emotional energy that made everything since They’re Only Chasing Safety so enjoyable.
Notable Tracks: “It Has to Start Somewhere”; “On my Teeth”; “No Frame”; “I Gave Up”
FFO: Bring Me The Horizon, Sleepwave, Norma Jean