Back in 2013, Underoath left us after a few years of turmoil and turbulence – nothing being quite as quaking in the band’s history as the exit of drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie in 2010, who was the band’s final original member. Meanwhile, in the wake of his departure, internally or otherwise the band were at conflicting crossroads, and ultimately put things to bed with what appeared to be irreconcilable circumstances.
Indeed, in the band’s post-split documentary ‘Tired Violence’ that soon followed, its accompanying title couldn’t have been more fitting, capturing the band on their then final tour dates, and for some confessing that the passion and indeed the drive to sustain Underoath as a full-time unit had died. Frontman Spencer Chamberlain had not only lost his faith in faith, but also grew a bitter taste for it, whilst the other members had other focuses that simply took priority.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise a few years later when the band teased a return, and eventually announced unto the world their rebirth, touring and performing their two breakthrough and pinnacle records – ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’ and ‘Define The Great Line’ – back-to-back in their entirety. It was this that shifted the band’s focus from one-off bursts of nostalgia to rising Underoath from the ashes completely.
Fast-forward to 2018, and yes, there’s a new record from the Floridians in ‘Erase Me’, their first offering in eight years, and, though there are undoubtedly traces of the band as we knew them still here for all to see and showcased on several cuts, an ample amount has also been erased.
Lead single ‘On My Teeth’ is a fantastic choice of song to bridge fans from one era of their career to the other. It’s fast-paced, Gillespie‘s drum work is impeccable as always, Chamberlain‘s roars are as intimidating as they’ve ever been, and their vocal trade-off during its infectious chorus easily harks back to the band’s 2010 offering, ‘Lost In The Sound Of Separation’.
‘No Frame’ is another highlight. It hosts a lot of the hopelessness and bleak nature that’s traced across their last full-length ‘Ø (Disambiguation)’, especially with its near ethereal electronic effects over the vocals as the track progressively leads us into a collision path. Keyboardist/programmer completely blindsides us out of nowhere with a wall of effects, and has us feeling like Jon Snow when he’s isolated at the Battle of the Bastards.
It’s undeniable that there’s still some fire left in Underoath‘s bellies after their years away, but all too often it feels like we’re left with charred leftovers that the band struggle to reignite. ‘Rapture’ sounds incredibly uninspired, sluggish, and built for the sake of being thrown onto the radio, ‘Wake Me’ meanders in discarded Sleepwave b-side territory, and closer ‘I Gave Up’ struggles to even establish the point that it’s trying to make.
The thing is, a throwback and modernised ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’ or ‘Define The Great Line’ isn’t what everyone wanted from Underoath. Both of those records are more than a decade old, and people grow up, people change, the band have changed – that’s expected. It’s not even that the slightly alt rock leaning injected here is a bad route to go down, and ‘ihateit’ is evidence of that, it’s just lacking in something to really chew on. Put simply, ‘Erase Me’ isn’t a poor album by any means, but it is a disappointing one.