For writing about music for about 4 years, something I didn’t think I would ever get to write about is actually happening. For the first time in 8 years, we have a new Underoath album releasing this Friday titled Erase Me. It is the first in 10 years with fan favorite Aaron Gillespie behind the drum kit once again. We got an early copy to write this review for and hold on tight; this is about to get intense.
So Let’s Get This Straight…
First thing is first. Underoath released two singles that are officially out right now called ‘On My Teeth’ and ‘Rapture’ which were met with mixed reactions from fans. Add the samples and teasers being put out on social media and you have a worried fan base. For the most part, it is coming from older fans of Underoath claiming ‘this isn’t Underoath’ or things of that nature. To that, I will say this record will be a roller coaster for you in the best way possible. It has it’s moments where it hits you hard, but more on that later. To say this isn’t Underoath one must know who Underoath is as a band, which is a band who has NEVER made the same record twice. The changes between They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line are so drastic, yet they’re the same band. So which one is Underoath? Exactly, both. With that in mind, as experimental and different Erase Me is, it is very much the same band.
‘Selling Out’ Isn’t Selling Out
The general notion here is that every time a well-known band with an established fan base changes a style or tries new things they sell out. Let’s dive into this a bit here because that is further from the truth. The Plot In You’s Dispose is a brilliant release from a traditionally heavy band. Of course, we all know the monster that is Bring Me The Horizon, and they, along with Plot, faced the same criticism at first. If the band really did ‘sell out’, they would have returned with a blend of Define, Lost In The Sound, and maybe Disambiguation because we all know those would fly off the shelf. It would be a safe release. However, experimenting and trying something completely different is the absolute opposite.
Spencer Chamberlain also recently told Revolver Magazine this:
I’ve been off drugs for over a year and I know that was able to happen because we just let all those titles and restrictions go. That’s beautiful to me and if people are mad about that they can be mad all they want. I’m at a point in life where I can happy and healthy and they really want us to be a metal band and a Christian band again? I would be dead by now. I would be miserable — and overdosed on drugs — and there wouldn’t be an Underoath.
Going off of that, it seems that people don’t realize that these artists are real people with real emotions and struggles. It took the tragic loss of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park after the backlash for their last record for people to realize what he was trying to say. Everyone was so lost in the change of style, or if they were ‘selling out’ to hear his cry for help. So do you want the healthy and happy version of a band with a different sound? Or do you want one where they’re hurting and possibly contemplating taking their life yet what you want to hear? This isn’t implying this is where Spencer was during this time but we never know what is truly going on deep inside a person. It’s okay to not like a record or band, but having the mindset of being glad they’re doing well emotionally and health-wise vs just slamming them is not okay.
So with that being said, let’s get into this…
The Three Keys Of ‘Erase Me’
Spencer Chamberlain, Aaron Gillespie, and Chris Dudley are the three who I feel influenced this record the most. We will get into which each one brings on Erase Me and how it affects the record as a whole.
Through this record, we find Spencer in a place that is unsettling. Despite having an outlet with Sleepwave, it seems like he has been through literally hell and back since the breakup and rebirth of Underoath. The lyrics on this record are dark and he commands the vocals with authority and power behind them. Even on the calmer tracks such as Wake Me, No Frame, and ihateit we find some powerful emotion being put out into the lyrics and recording though the latter of the three ends on a very heavy note. While Aaron Gillespie and Spencer have been known to co-write lyrics, Spencer is mainly present here on this record, it feels like this was a record he had to write and get out. Struggles with faith (Please God give me a chance/you’ve got me wrong/all of this is so damn useless/I’m done with you/all of this is so damn useless) to his struggles with drug addiction (Maybe this is just a cry for help/Maybe I should just forgive myself/Is this the reason I go through Hell/Is this the reason that I dream it all away). There is definitely pain and bottled up emotion that was unleashed on this record lyrically.
While the singing from the drummer isn’t as strong as it’s been with his earlier albums with the band, his musicianship is absolutely nuts. Whether is one of their rock-driven tracks or more ‘older’ sounding tracks, he completely rips the drum kit up. Whatever Spencer was feeling and put into his vocals, Gillespie found that for himself and channeled it into a punishing performance. Though hearing more of him singing would have been icing on the cake for Erase Me, hearing his technical and insane drumming is very much welcomed back. His vocal performance is the strongest on In Motion in which we hear more of his classic vocal delivery yet providing brief moments of borderline screams, which we rarely hear, in the verse.
This record does not exist without this man. The long time stage hype man/keyboardist fans have come to love has gone from adding and layering to the records to being a key role. Not that he wasn’t before, but bands have covered Underoath songs for years without a keyboard and have pulled them off well. With this record that is not the case. It would be damn near impossible to cover any song on this without the keys and on this recording they are haunting, eerie, and dark. Songs like Bloodlust and the closing track I Gave Up have become some of my favorites on the track BECAUSE of the synth driving it. The 21 Pilots-esque verses of Wake Me showcase the pop and friendly sounding elements of his work while lyrically being dark. Of course, No Frame is where all of this accumulates into a huge wall of soundscapes and different layers going on. The amount of influence Chris has on this record is very different and refreshing.
Overall Take On ‘Erase Me’
Standout Tracks: It Has To Start Somewhere/Bloodlust/I Gave Up/Wake Me/ihateit
The final word on this piece of work is that it is not the Underoath record we asked for or expected, but something that is very much welcomed and unique. The classic thrashy moments from previous records are now moments built up in songs and unleashed in their climaxes, making them some of the best of their career. The hooks in these songs will get stuck in your head while conveying some much-needed things being said. This record is a journey and kicks off with wondering and lost-ness that is It Has To Start Somewhere while ending on the hopeful yet uncertain closer that is I Gave Up.
I absolutely love the catchy hooks with the dark lyrics in these songs. This makes it a perfect contrast to sing along – until you realize these catchy songs aren’t so friendly. To simply judge this record on two singles without hearing the whole piece or getting the whole puzzle is crazy. This will be closed out with this − Welcome back Underoath.
Erase Me is out this Friday and you can still pre-order a copy HERE by selecting their webstore or MerchNow and view their tour dates below.