It doesn’t seem so long ago that Tonight Alive entered the fray, dropping their debut record ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ in 2011. Since then, the band have stapled themselves as one of the fore-fronting bands in pop-rock, and, after mixed reviews on their last album ‘Limitless’ in 2016, they’re back with ‘Underworld’, wishing to prove a point whilst showing that they’ve learnt some lessons at the same time.
Throwing us in with ‘Book Of Love’, the song sweeps you in with its sweetened synthetic melodies and frontwoman Jenna McDougall‘s embracing powerful vocal melodies which stand out among the mix. It enters as a strong, yet dark sounding opener, and seemingly a safe bet as the track the band will opt to open with many upcoming tours.
Lead single ‘Temple’ follows-up, and is an angst-ridden, groove-filled track that slots perfectly after a hefty opener. The chorus line “My body is a temple / Tell me why it hurts like / Why it hurts like hell?” is hooky in this bad-tempered, grungy, almost nu-metal tinted track.
Following this is ‘Disappear’, which is sure to be a fan favourite thanks to the effective guest vocal spot from PVRIS singer, Lynn Gunn. The song itself crawls moodily along, perhaps slightly lightweight, but is still enjoyable and quite catchy. It’s the first time that this album sways towards a more poppy melodic style, something that ‘Underworld’ experiments with on a few occasions. See ‘For You’ and ‘Burning On’ for some prime examples of this, both of which fit well as less frantic and more pop-rock, hooky and melodic pieces.
‘Crack My Heart’ is a step back into the more familiar sound that we’ve come to expect from Tonight Alive over the years, and carries a stomping rhythm whilst retaining emphatic power in a driving and head-banging chorus. The bridge of this track, even though short, is arguably the heaviest that the record offers, with an aggressive hammer-on riff to compliment the darker edge in the song.
Near the record’s end, it falls into a bit of a sombre mood, as ballads like ‘Last Light’ and ‘Looking For Heaven’ lull you in with a beautifully bitter-sweet and romantically spiked feel. The latter in particular is, like the title, quite heavenly, if not a bit too radio-friendly and slightly minimal.
Yet, these tracks help ease the album to a conclusion before ‘My Underworld’ rounds things off with the semi-shocking inclusion of Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor rocking up on a guest spot. Taylor features in a large portion of the song, delivering his vocals well, and yet, they seem slightly strange on this particular record, and definitely this track. You’d be forgiven for forgetting it was actually his iconic voice at times.
It’s unclear whether or not ‘Underworld’ does disprove the negativity from ‘Limitless’, but it’s certainly a step up. What it does do well, however, is blend a mix of alternative, grungy, and moody tones alongside melodic, pop-rock, and plenty of heart-filled ballads.
In fact, there are so many styles on the record that it’s hard to pin down just what style the band are going for, and perhaps this hinders the LP more than it aids it. Yet, by blending an experimental and wider range of sounds, they do achieve a three-dimensional and expansive album, and, for that, they have to be given some credit.