Album: Define the Great Line (Special Edition with DVD)
Label: Solid State Records/ Tooth & Nail
When I say the word Underoath, many things may come to mind. “Metal.” “Emo.” “Screamo sellouts.” “Popcore.” “Dallas was better, this new stuff is MTV garbage.” “The old stuff is terrible, but I liked They’re Only Chasing Safety.” Regardless which of these thoughts best describe how you feel about Underoath, one thing is certain: you know exactly who they are. Or do you? Underoath has never been a band to sound the same from album to album, and with the new release of Define the Great Line, they have again pushed themselves and hopefully their listeners to try something new.
Part 1: The Album
As much as you may think you are familiar with the sound of this Florida based six piece melodic hardcore band, I feel I must reacquaint you. As the opening riff of the first track, “In Regards to Myself,” begins to play, you know something big is about to happen. Spencer Chamberlain promptly unleashes the most brutal vocals to be heard from this band since Cries of the Past. But that is not to say Underoath has gone back to their black metal days. Oh no. Imagine the sounds you heard on their last release combined with influence of The Chariot, Beloved, and a little bit of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster just for fun. The guitars are merciless and somewhat chaotic, and the vocals range from the usual middle to high screams all the way to a deep and very powerful growl that will make hardcore fans nation wide think twice before continuing to refer to Underoath as pansies. There’s still some singing, but it’s urgent and only one step away from a scream. Seriously, this may as well be a whole new band, and the more I think about it, this is the band I always dreamt of creating. They have basically everything I could ask for. Define the Great Line is not just a collection of songs. This record tells a story, and each track adds another chapter to that story. This is a story about a journey, the journey that we each must take called life. These lyrics are poetic in nature and somewhat left to interpretation, but the overall feel is that of breaking out of the mold of generic day to day living, waking up, and searching for God. And with the telling of this story, Underoath has created one amazing musical experience. This is not an album that can quickly be thrown out to any genre specific crowd. It will have some appeal with those who are into screamo, hardcore, or metal, but it is not any one of these nor a cheesy combination of them that we’ve heard so many times before. Underoath has truly stretched themselves to make something new here. Aaron Gillespie’s drums are strong and know exactly what to do throughout the slow parts and the many insanely fast song endings. Christopher Dudley’s keyboards have been used for enhancing dark metal songs. They have been used to juice up some strong screamo songs. And now, they are all but gone as a major part of this release. Here, they function mainly to tie each song together (giving an even greater feeling of the fact that this is one big project and not just a bunch of songs), or to add a little flair from time to time, but this does not mean the keys are obsolete. They are still what complete Underoath. The guitars and bass at times seem like they’ll never stop, and I can only hope not to get caught in the middle of the pit for this stuff or my face will be broken within minutes. There are still plenty of melodic points; just don’t expect them to last too long. Our journey is finally brought to a close after roughly 45 minutes of fear, helplessness, failure, pride, conformity, and unsatisfaction. On the last track, To Whom It May Concern, the listener is encouraged to continue their own journey. At the end of the road you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. I know ‘cause my feet have the scars to show. I was lost with vague direction and no place to call home. Oh how good it feels to know that I am not the only one bold enough to wear the name of Christ and oh so human enough to not deserve a name so beautiful. Behind the mask you’ll find yourself alone. It’s not the end of the road for you.
Part 2: The DVD
I must say, after watching this, I love the production of Matt Goldman even more than I already did. Also featured on this DVD is the production of Adam D. and the mixing of Chris Lord-Alge, and of course all the studio antics of Underoath. From competing facial hair to eating cake to talking about what they’ll do after this record goes 4x Platinum to talking about their goals musically and the trap of the industry and how they have become a business asset, this was enjoyable and worth watching, but I’m not sure if it will ever get played a second time. Semi-hidden on the menu is another option to hear some Nevada man tell his story of sitting outside Area 51 and what he saw. It is highly intriguing, to say the least.
Part 3: The Album Art
The DVD contains an entire section dedicated to showing some of what went into the photography for this album, and let me tell you, I am almost certain they spent more on this design then I currently hold in my bank account (which I guess isn’t saying too much coming from a high school student currently looking for a summer job, but still). Seriously, when I look at the front cover of this digi-pack, I can’t help but be amazed that this is the most recent Tooth & Nail album and not the most recent blockbuster DVD from a major motion picture company. As I flip through the lyrics insert, there is a series of images which add to the story told by the album. They follow a man who travels through a dessert struggling with the terrain, others, and himself, and I won’t tell you how it ends. One pretty cool thing is that on the last page it give this list of organizations that they support: www.invisiblechildren.com, www.desiringgod.org, www.shirtsforacure.com, www.epa.org.
Overall, I am simply in awe of this project. Underoath may have just made the smartest career move I have ever seen. They’re Only Chasing Safety gained the interest of almost every emo kid walking the malls these days, and we can only hope that this interest will bring them to check out Define the Great Line, which will then open their ears to something other than a thousand bands cloning each other’s music. Even more importantly, I hope that they will listen to this album and begin this journey for themselves. As I sit here again listening to this amazing album end, I feel very spiritually enlightened. Underoath has now gained my full support.
PS. For those who will surely miss the poppier side of this band, drummer Aaron Gillespie has a side project called The Almost. You will most likely find that to be satisfyingUnderoath "Define The Great Line" (Special Edition CD/DVD),