Underoath - Lost in the Sound of Separation
Record Label: Tooth & Nail/Solid State
Release Date: September 2, 2008
The development of any popular and talented band requires change. Yes, a band is a single unit composed of members who share similar musical ideas and tastes; but in order for a band to survive, the group must be dynamic. A willingness to accept different opinions, beliefs, or ways of life must be a standard within the group, or it cannot function. Sometimes however, personal ideas and attitudes can cause rifts between band members which can lead to a change in the band’s lineup. Sure, a guitarist here, a bass player there, can be easily replaced. But not often a band can survive after seeing the arrival and departure of nine different members, two of which being vocalists. Very rarely do you see a band still playing after three of the four founding members have moved on to different projects. You probably don’t hear a band change their sound- from metal, to pop-rock, to hard rock, then to melodic death metal and live to talk about it. Toss in the fact that during their first five years of existence, their freshman and sophomore efforts only sold 5,000 copies combined, and touch it off with each member being a practicing Christian with separate spiritual beliefs, and it could be considered a miracle that Underoath survived their first release.
Underoath are the epitome of the word, ‘dynamic’. Throughout all the change, Underoath have retained the one element that makes them Underoath- incredible song writing. Underoath take a leap forward as a whole with their release of Lost in the Sound of Separation. From a technical standpoint, LITSOS is an enormous achievement, with heavy, chugging guitar rhythms, complex solos, and pounding in-your-face vocals. Gone are the days of the radio friendly, rock-pop, scream/sing singles of They’re Only Chasing Saftey and in is a new unrelenting and powerfully haunting sound from Spencer Chamberlain.
Underoat's frontman delivers a change of tone on LITSOS, and his progression can be seen throughout the past three offerings from the band. In They’re Only Chasing Safety, his screams were much higher pitched, which complemented the melodic and sometimes ‘emo’ lyrics of his counterpart Aaron Gillespie. With the release of Define the Great Line, Underoath aimed for the hard-rock genre, with Chamberlain receiving the majority of mic time and delivering his lyrics with a deeper sound more true to his vocal range. Their latest effort shows off Chamberlain’s vocal abilities even more so, with his screams being even deeper and more guttural. Unfortunately his lower key and more forceful delivery takes away from the clarity of his lyrics, with verses sometimes diminished to almost incomprehensible screaming. There are times when his voice seems very mechanized and forced in comparison to his work on previous albums, and there are a few moments when Chamberlain’s screaming seems out of place, not quite following the rhythm of the guitars backing him.
This change brings a totally different sound to LITSOS. Fans of past albums may be disappointed at times, as Gillespie’s vocals seem to be a rarity. The melody that reigned throughout Define the Great Line is replaced with a much more metal-inspired sound, and this can be overwhelming at times to the listener. After four or five songs on this new album, you may find yourself switching back to a song off of Define the Great Line to provide some variety. That’s not to say LITSOS is simple and straightforward- there are changes in pace and the traditional Underoath instrumental breaks between a few songs, however these do not occur nearly as often as on previous albums. The overall feel to LITSOS is very different- the album begins powerfully with the epic guitar slams of “Breathing In a New Mentality” and continues on, bashing through verses, bludgeoning the listener with raw, aggressive sound that doesn’t cease until the final, nearly completely instrumental “Desolate Earth :: The End Is Here”.
Lyrically, LITSOS delivers. Staying true to their roots, Gillespie and Chamberlain write music with powerful themes of human spirituality, everyday struggles, inner strength, and the nature of man. Underoath’s lyrics are what separate them from traditional metalcore bands of today. All members of the band are active Christians and they identify themselves as a Christian band, however the majority of their audience is not spiritual. In an interview with Europunk.net, Chamberlain explains that they are religious, but in a different way. He says Christianity is the "backbone of our lives, especially in the way that we handle certain things, but it’s not so much the backbone of our lyrics. It’s not like every song is a lesson from the Bible or something. It’s just normal life struggles." While maybe not at the forefront of their lyrics, an underlying theme of spirituality gives Underoath’s music another dimension. No longer just sound and rhythm, Underoath is an experience, their multifaceted lyrics allowing the listener to interpret them in many ways and connect with them based on personal beliefs or situations.
Lost in the Sound of Separation is a showcase of talent- Gillespie’s incredible drumming ability is center stage again, as are Chamberlain’s vocal styles that prove him to be one of the most accomplished metal singers of his time. Even with its few flaws, it is a solid album and easily recommendable to all Underoath and metal fans alike. It is an incredible step forward in Underoath’s career and a great musical achievement; however the album that truly shows who Underoath can be has yet to be released. Lost in the Sound of Separation is merely a stepping stone on their journey and foreshadows what is in store from this extremely talented band.