What does rebirth mean to you? Do you tear everything down or make adjustments? Once you’ve left something, do you pick up right where you left off as if the person you currently are hasn’t gone through some sort of metamorphosis in that time frame? Underoath’s last album, 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation) felt more like a bookmark. For a band that achieved so much in the metalcore scene, 2013’s breakup seemed like walking off the track with ten meters to go to the finish line. There was something more sonically tangible that the band was achieving, but somethings need to breathe. Especially with a band, people need to grow into their own separately.
Fast forward to the reformation of the current incarnation of the band. Fresh off the Rebirth tour playing two of their most beloved albums, 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and 2006’s Define the Great Line in their entirely. Two albums that redefined the band and that are both held in high regard within their fan base. With drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie back, the band was learning how to be a band again through some of their storied material.
Erase Me is a product of a band that’s gotten older and didn’t want to rest on the laurels of their rebirth hanging on the foundation they have previously laid. When you listen to the album, there’s a harsh inner layer lyrically to it. This is a band that has been through some hardships in their time away and it has them questioning the pillars that they have found solace in, such as religion.
Producer Matt Squire (Taking Back Sunday, Panic! at the Disco) leaves his imprint on this album as most of the songs are more uniformed and streamlined. Previous Underoath material is known for not adhering to a structure. Most of this album hits on a conventional verse/chorus/verse structure. The opening track, “It Has To Start Somewhere,” is reminiscent of an Underoath opening that one would be familiar with. Lead singer Spencer Chamberlain switching from clean to unclean vocals pairing off with the frantic and rhythmic drumming/vocals of Gillespie.
Guitarist Tim McTague interjects with his creative guitar chords as lyrically, there seems to be a face-off between one person and religion, being forgotten, and giving up. “Please God, give me a chance/ you’ve got me wrong. This is all so damn useless/ I’m done with you.” (This theme permeates throughout the album).
With their new ventures into alternative rock, there are two sides of the coin where it gives different results. “Rapture” and “Wake Me” are two songs at the beginning of the album that place Underoath in a more confined box of music. Not that there aren’t little things that will make you recognize the little complexities of an Underoath song, it’s that they are so turned down that it shields you from what was special from the band. There are times that you listen to Erase Me and it’s like the two personas of Underoath are at war with each other fighting for supremacy. “ihateit” is going to be one of the most universally accessible Underoath songs. It perfectly uses Chamberlain’s voice to fit the style of alternative rock, even at it’s most formulaic.
“Hold Your Breath” and “In Motion” are the best examples of how the band finds their footing in the marriage of their new sound and incorporating their older foundation. “Hold Your Breath” starts with a furious tornado of thrash rock and morphs into a unanimous chorus that is one of the best of on the album. “In Motion” makes use of the call back-and-forth cadence from Chamberlain and Gillespie. Guitarists McTague and James Smith shine with the Dance Gavin Dance-like guitar bits that they utilize within the main foundation. The second half of the album is where Erase Me really finds it’s footing.
Those who are looking for things that remind them of punch and experimental foundations of Underoath’s previous material should look no further than “Sink With You” and “Bloodlust.” “Sink With You” is a line of gasoline running away from fire. Just in case you didn’t get enough from the song, it comes back from a brief rebuttal of the ferociously during the chorus.
“Bloodlust” starts with a dreamy guitar chord mixed with keyboard and a jazz-like bass line from Grant Brandell. From there, it flips a switch and goes into a more up-tempo rock track. The sudden tempo changes like with “Sink With You,” shows that Underoath still can be unpredictable in the journey that they want to take you.
Keyboard/Programmer Christopher Dudley’s role is even more pronounced on this album. Often adding drum programming in the beginning of songs or sound dissonance to give each sound its own persona. There’s an addition to Chamberlain’s voice on “Sink With You” that makes him sound like he’s speaking underwater.
On 2008’s Lost in the Sound of Separation, the album ended with “Desolate Earth: The End Is Here.” An instrumental track that progressively built into this “light at the end of the tunnel” moment for Chamberlain. “I found hope, I found God/I found the dreams of the believers,” Chamberlain proclaimed which was an end of a very emotionally taxing album.
The album cover of Erase Me shows a statue of an angel that’s met with decay and pieces of its extremities missing. It’s hallow and the grey texture seems like it’s slowly being erased with every season that it endures. “I Gave Up” is the exclamation point of the tribulations that have attached themselves to the band since their hiatus.
In the end, you have a band that started an adventure sound wise with Define The Great Line and pushed it to the edge so much that they had to take a break and figure out what this incarnation of the band would be. Erase Me doesn’t necessarily serve to erase the roadmap that the band has taken. It doesn’t even fully exercise the demons that are littered in the lyrical content – although it’s the first step in healing. Underoath could have come back to their chronicled metalcore past and been intimidated to repeat it again. This time, they tried a new approach that will feel even more comfortable in time.