Album: Survive Kaleidoscope
Label: Tooth & Nail/ Solid State Records
Release Date: May 27, 2008
Review by: Eric Pettersson
Tracklist (for both CD and DVD, unless otherwise noted):
1. Intro (Salmarnir)/ Returning Empty Handed
2. In Regards to Myself
3. It’s Dangerous Business Walking out Your Front Door
4. You’re Ever So Inviting
5. To Whom It May Concern
6. A Moment Suspended in Time
7. Young and Aspiring
There Could Be Nothing after This [ONLY ON DVD]
8. Writing on the Walls
9. Everyone Looks So Good from Here
10. Casting Such a Thin Shadow
11. Moving for the Sake of Motion
12. A Boy Brushed Red, Living in Black and White
Before I actually start this review, two things must be understood. The first is that while this is a combined live CD and live DVD, both of which contain pretty much the same track list, they are in fact separate recordings from the same tour. The DVD takes place all in one night. It is a film of a single show on October 28, 2007 at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA. The CD, however, is a compilation of various recordings from several dates throughout this tour last fall.
The second thing to understand is that I love Underoath. I have from the moment I heard “Letting Go of Tonight” on This Is Solid State Vol. 3 and from the first time I saw the video for “When the Sun Sleeps.” Since then, I have been a loyal follower, and I can’t wait for the new studio album to be released in the coming months. In fact, when Define the Great Line dropped almost exactly two years ago, I rushed out and bought the deluxe version with the DVD and better artwork on the first day. That said, I have had quite a long time to become quite familiar with the material on that record.
Which leads to my dilemma with the actual review here. See, only three songs come from They’re Only Chasing Safety. And the nine others are all from Define the Great Line. For a band with three (or five) records under their belt, that seems like a pretty limited selection. So once I actually got this thing into my CD player and started pumping it out of my speakers, all I could think of was, “I’ve heard all this before.” Literally. Sure, it’s a live recording, but they seem to not be into the whole funny stage banter thing, so it’s basically just an exact replica of their last release, except with the songs rearranged and a bunch of cheering thrown into the background. The sound quality is impressive, and I applaud the engineers and everyone else involved, including the band for being so on the spot with everything, but for someone who has already spun Define the Great Line as many times as I have, it just comes across as a simple rehashing of old songs. Well played, well recorded… but give me a little more variety here. I wanted to hear funny stories between tracks, songs selected from more than one record, and maybe even a new one thrown in to get us pumped for the next release. I mean, that’s how Five Iron Frenzy did it back in the day with Proof That the Youth Are Revolting, and it has been my standard for what a live album should be ever since. A standard that is hard to reach.
Thankfully, the DVD strips me of my negativity and apathetic drivel and suddenly plops me in the front row of one fantastic concert. It’s strange that I wasn’t actually there. I do live about thirty minutes away, but I guess that’s what happens when a sweet concert is happening on the night of your anniversary. And for the record, I do not regret missing this show… especially since I now have it right here in my hands. And I must say, everything is right on. The performance itself is incredible. The lighting and everything else about the venue works well with the footage, and Underoath play through their songs in an above par quality. Spencer Chamberlain (lead vocals) connects with the crowd instantly and is able to maintain stamina throughout all thirteen songs, an impressive feat for someone doing so much screaming and running around. Watching this DVD also made me realize/remember how great Aaron Gillespie (drums and vocals, The Almost)’s voice quality is. Some singers just aren’t as good live. I’m not blaming that on Pro-Tools or whatever other studio magic exists. I’m just saying that some guys can sing great in a relaxed atmosphere like a studio and then just don’t do as well trying to run around playing an instrument on a stage for twenty to forty minutes. But not Aaron. His voice is clear and hits all the high notes with passion and flair. At one point between songs Spencer takes a few minutes to explain that the reason Underoath is around making music is because of Jesus, the man who saved his life. That little bit alone is worth the whole DVD, and it was encouraging to see and that the band said it live and the label allowed it to stay on the film.
As a total package, I’d say that Survive Kaleidoscope is a worthy purchase for any truly hardcore Underoath fan or anyone new looking for an idea of what the band is like. The DVD is obviously the superior disc, but the CD isn’t complete crap… it’s a good recording and a fun listen, it’s just not going to be anything new and exciting for those of us who have heard Define the Great Line so many times before. So if you’re like me, I’d say definitely give this thing a shot, but maybe borrow it and give it a test drive before deciding to fork over the cash.
Total Score: 7.5/10