If you were to ask me 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to predict that Underoath would last into the year 2018. That might not be the best way to start out a review on their new album, but it is the truth. I feel I’m probably not the only one who felt that way. Many people simply knew about them as a band during the 2000’s era metalcore bands who also happened to be Christian, which probably helped propel their name a little more, for better or for worse.
Yet, it’s arguable if they are as popular as they used to be several years ago, but the fact remains that their name is actually pretty recognizable. And this is even after a breakup and a reunion, yet we’re still hearing about them. After 8 years without a new album, Underoath is back with Erase Me to show if they still have what it takes to be the household name they are.
If you’re a regular follower of this website, then perhaps you were like me and the single “Rapture” was the first exposure you had of Erase Me. And if you’re still like me, you were unimpressed. Full of emotion to be sure, but perhaps a little more radio friendly than what we’re accustomed to from Underoath’s more recent albums. However, I’m happy to say that “Rapture” alone is not the most accurate picture of Erase Me.
With Aaron Gillespie back on the drums and vocals, this is truly the return of Underoath. The sheer and raw force of energetic emotion that was present on great albums such as Define the Great Line and even most recently in 2010 on Ø is back in spades. It almost sounds like time hasn’t moved at all when you compare Erase Me to some of their previous works.
As far as trademark sounds go, Underoath’s career has been fairly consistent. Album elements can range from frenetic onslaughts of rhythm to catchy clean choruses and to slower emotional ballads. It’s not much different from other metalcore formulas, but the combination of Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain’s voices has always added a personal trademark to it. It never sounds like those two have ever phoned-in a performance on a record. It simply compels you to want to listen more.
“Rapture” might not be an immediate hit with Underoath fans, and there are a couple of other tracks with the same flavor as such, (“Wake Me”), but there are plenty of other tracks to chew on. “On My Teeth” is a great mix of their hectic side while still being able to bring it down with a clean and melodic chorus. “Hold Your Breath” will also persuade you to circle a pit as soon as it drops. And at the same time, a song like “ihateit” has also been stuck in my head for several days now. Again, an album like this could have been released immediately after Ø and it wouldn’t have appeared to have been a departure. It’s a very logical next step in the evolution of Underoath’s sound, even if it did take 8 years to get there.
If there’s anything that has changed dramatically for Underoath, it would have to be their lyrical content. Their Christian faith is one of their most common associations, however, the times have changed. They have since claimed they are no longer a Christian band but hadn’t yet released a new album with their new views.
The most controversial element so far on Erase Me are the many curse words found in their new songs. Of course, curse words and expletives are nothing new to the world of metal, but it certainly is for Underoath. Several tweets from certain band members in the wake of these discovered expletives display an unapologetic nature from the band in defense of their art. What’s more is that Chamberlain’s lyrics are some of the most conflicted lyrics we heard so far. For instance, the opening track “It Has to Start Somewhere” contains lyrics such as “Don’t understand it / Don’t need your grace / You were never listening / To the words I said." In the track “ihateit," we get a slightly clearer image into Chamberlain’s mind; “God erase me / I don’t deserve the life you give / God I can’t change at all."
Interpret it for what you will, but it is quite obvious that while not much has changed in the way of Underoath’s musical trademarks, their ideology and motivations most definitely have. It definitely has the potential to polarize already established fans, as a matter of fact it already has, but I think it has equal potential to reignite their career even longer. To be clear; after hearing “Rapture”, I did want to give Erase Me low marks. But after living with it for a while, I simply just can’t. It is a good album, and certainly worth your time.