Underoath - Lost In The Sound Of Separation
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Record Label: Tooth & Nail/Solid State
Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up. – Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins
When I look back on what has occurred around Underoath over the past two years, this is one quote I think of. There were plenty of highlights in Camp UO, such as 2006’s Define The Great Line being certified gold and debuting at number two on the Billboard. But all of that seemed to get overshadowed with the band’s sudden drop off that summer’s Warped Tour, the near break-up of the band, and vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s battle with substance abuse and past and present demons. It was a dark time for the Florida sextet. But they fought through it and came out of it stronger than ever - armed with their sixth studio album, Lost In The Sound Of Separation, just waiting to unleash it on the world.
The same team that produced DTGL (Adam Dutkiewicz and Matt Goldman) is back, this time with some mixing help from David Bendeth (Paramore). As a result, eleven tracks were conceived and they are massive. Covering a wide scope of vibes, paces, and directions, Lost In The Sound Of Separation will move you. You’ll be shaken by the monstrous growls from Chamberlain and stunned by the bombastic drumming from Aaron Gillespie. At the same time, the melodies will sooth and calm you, only to betray you in a split second when the huge riffs, crafted by the guitar tandem of Tim McTague and James Smith, overtake your auditory senses. Add in Grant Brandell’s lively bass and keyboardist Chris Dudley’s sense for the atmospheric, and you have the recipe that eclipses – nah, destroys – the work done on DTGL.
To be honest, the first track, “Breathing In A New Mentality,” fooled me. It starts with some riffing and snare hits, pauses, then punches you in the mouth. This song makes DTGL’s opener, “In Regards To Myself,” seem like child’s play. Again, Chamberlain makes it loud and clear that this is his band as his screaming takes command, while Gillespie dominates his kit. Backed by razor sharp guitar chords, this song will make you wish you could turn your volume dial past 10. “Anyone Can Dig A Hole But It Takes A Real Man To Call It Home” wastes no time getting into the groove, as Chamberlain exclaims “We always assume the worst!” and asks “How can I still be alive?” The anxiety shown on this track is a common theme throughout the album. It’s frantic with it attempts to pick itself up, reaching out for hope.
Gillespie kicks off “A Fault Line, A Fault Of Mine,” a mid-paced song that features a nice dreamy pre-verse with vocals from the drummer, which leads into needling riffs and a crushing bridge as the harmony between Gillespie and Chamberlain soars. Underoath gets a bit industrial on “Emergency Broadcast/The End Is Near,” which channels Nine Inch Nails in the beginning and progresses into their brand of ambient-metal. The pace is slower, but this anthem still hits just as hard. “The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed” furiously follows, putting the listener in multiple Stone Cold Stunners. One of the (many) highlights throughout the album is Gillespie’s drumming. It gets better with each release and just absolutely dominates this track. The cool part about the song is its transition from straight up brimstone and fire to melodic chanting and staccato drumming. You’ll have no choice but to pump your fist. Tracks like “Coming Down Is Calming Down” and the first single, “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures,” will keep the mosh pit moving and the heads banging, as each track feels like a rollercoaster flailing off the tracks.
“The Created Void” is carried by Chamberlain’s sprawling roars and anchored by Gillespie’s incredible drumming. It’s more melodic than heavy, featuring riffs from McTague and Smith that loop in and out of your ear drums. And with plenty tracks ending loudly, the gentle outro and Gillespie’s meek vocals are a nice reprieve.
The final two tracks are what separate Underoath from the rest of the pack, though. “Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear” comes off as a hybrid jam song/almost-ballad. Its sparse beginning is led by Gillespie’s calming vocals and Dudley’s soothing keys and static noises and carries an organic vibe to it. It continually builds up, featuring a gruff singing verse from Chamberlain and addicting handclaps until it crescendos into the emotional storm of cymbals, power chords, and thundering vocals. It’s the most unique Underoath song you’ll find in their entire back catalog, thus showcasing the evolution of the band while maintaining their core sound. The unpredictability continues with closer “Desolate Earth/The End Is Here.” Electronic beats and lingering piano chords from Dudley sets the mood, and when the strings kick in, you are encompassed by the stunning beauty of the track, as it cleanses your mind and ears. When you think you’ve finally reached your utopia, guitars start spinning in, lifting the song to another level, followed by Chamberlain’s triumphant shouts to the heavens. In an album paced by desperation and anxiety, the final theme and message is hope.
While some publication’s early previews of Lost In The Sound Of Separation claimed the album as more experimental, I see it as refinement. Underoath made huge strides from 2004’s screamo-pop They’re Only Chasing Safety to the heavy Define The Great Line, and they continue to do so with Separation. It takes the best parts of DTGL and fine tune it. Whatever hit hard on that album hits harder here, leaving a resounding effect on the listener. Lyrically, Chamberlain continues to reveal his pain, his triumphs, his failures, and his success into well-articulated lyrics. As for those wary of the religious undertones, last time I checked you don’t have to be associated with any religion to experience pain and find hope, making Chamberlain’s words extremely relatable, regardless of what you believe.
Call it hype, call it whatever you want, but Lost In The Sound Of Separation is the real deal. There are no clichés on this record; it’s unpredictable and ear-splitting, full of ferocity and melody. Underoath tells a story of falling into the darkest times of your life and digging yourself out, reminding that you’re not alone. In a bleak world, Lost In The Sound Of Separation is a shot of optimism, piercing through the darkness.