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Metal’s acts are more impervious when it comes to hype, sensation and controversy. Personal changes, comebacks, reunions, they come and go. But for the most part, the bands endure. It’s less about individual personality and more a matter of collective force.
Underoath are exemplary. With drummer and clean vocalist Aaron Gillespie exiting beforehand, 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation) was cut in complete absence of original members. The group’s following has remained massive, even if critical heyday has passed. This Tampan outfit strays close to the monolithic. An entity too big to fail.
There’s something to be said for the scale on which they speak. They’re possessed with a name spoken in awed and reverent tones and consistently they’ve torn down the limitations of genre and expectation. The band’s hardcore, screamo, and black metal colourations have urged a generation of artists to forge their own musical paths. After five years lost in the sounds of separation, and with Gillespie now back in the fold, Erase Me is their return.
As the public relations copy reads, Erase Me is a new take. The album is humanist, focusing on inclusion rather than isolation or alienation by creed. In reality, it’s new noise.
‘It Has to Start Somewhere’ pulls the record into new epoch with bludgeoning aplomb. Electronic elements are at the fore. They’ve always been there, those stray ambient instrumentals or the burbles peppering the group’s thrash at least since The Changing of Times. What’s notable is that they’re hurled prominently to the front.
“There’s no turning back, there’s no coming down.” With ‘Rapture’ they’ve taken the plunge. The track clatters with an industrial feel.
But the new window dressing is hardly at the expense of familiar rhythms or caustic guitar assault. They’re still raging. But whatever extremities are acted out they’re falling back upon streamlined pop smarts and signature ferocity. ‘Wake Me’, ‘Bloodlust’ and ‘ihateit’ attest to this. They act out across Underoath’s more melodic and emotional contours. But before you can level accusations of middle of the road, ‘Hold Your Breath’ thunders back to caustic roots. Snarl, menace, and bone-crunching power. Gimme that raw edge!
And this record does, at least for a second. It quickly finds itself lost in the upsweep of a towering and anthemic vocal build. That is before spiralling into spacious prog. ‘Hold Your Breath’ placates with a bit of everything. All the grandeur but perhaps not all of the tooth, inviting but never fully igniting. However, ‘I Gave Up’ shores up any slouches. A fittingly grandiose conclusion.
Underoath’s eighth album is far from a new beginning. But undeniably there’s been evolution. At times they’re sounding more polished. But perception colours music doesn’t it just?
If you believe a group were never better than that certain album or the singer lost his voice after Led Zeppelin IV the music that follows is going to lend itself to expectation. With metal, there’s always some lingering belief of objective standard. But push it away and project your fantasy.
Winners or losers, Underoath are back. Erase Me is a wall to throw your thoughts against. Its polish will push some away while bringing others into the fold.
Erase Me is a slick, and well-made example of all the elements which have pushed the band to where it is today. Underoath have gained their own identity and for all its newfangled turns their eighth leans back on the fact. New in, old out, the majority sits comfortably in the middle. They’ve survived metalcore and joined The Circuit. These six are behemoths. The metal machine hurtles on.