Album Review: Underøath - Erase Me

Words by Maddy Howell

As a small drop in the almighty wave of 2000’s era metalcore bands, it’s surprising that Underøath are still offering up their take on the genre in 2018, over twenty years after their inception. Having undergone a number of significant lineup changes and dealt with a great deal of personal conflict, the band’s musical output has remained loyally true to itself, never straying too far from its signature style and winning formula.

As their first full-length release in eight years, it’s equally surprising just how much the band have remained lurking in the shadows of the scene. Despite doing little more than breaking up and hosting a subsequent reunion in those eight years away from the studio, it seems Underøath have never failed to maintain their household name status. ‘Erase Me’ acts as a re-introduction to the Florida sextet, with an extra layer of pressure applied to craft something appealing to both established and prospective fans.

Returning to form with founding member Aaron Gillespie back behind the drum kit, ‘Erase Me’ is an attempt to reignite flames of past whilst introducing some fresh inspiration, to varying degrees of success. Leaning more on the hard rock side of Underøath’s talents, the album offers a more polished take on the signature Underøath sound, starting proceedings with the ferociously urgent, It Has To Start Somewhere.

With it’s discordant, echoing drum intro, the track eases gently into position before vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s impassioned scream of, “If my tongue is the blade // And your hand is the gun // One of us ain’t going home tonight” shifts it back. The execution of both Chamberlain’s vocals and the rest of the instrumental ensemble give echoes of the desperate, soaring Underøath of old, with a thinly polished glaze offering a glimpse towards a new future for the band.

‘Erase Me’ follows a fairly standard metalcore formula, offering up a carefully calculated mix of frantic grating screams, catchy clean vocal sections, and striking instrumental displays. Throughout this mix, the album is at its worst when dwelling on it’s more radio-friendly, clean-vocal-dominated moments, with Wake Me and Rapture proving to be some of the most sickly sweet and uninspired output the band’s career has seen.

That’s not to say all of the defining elements of the band’s sound have been watered down and remastered for a new generation, with the emotive energy of albums such as ‘Define the Great Line’ still maintained on tracks such as In Motion. The rollicking drum rhythms, aggressive growls, and anthemic chorus see the track fitting perfectly amongst the band’s early work whilst also bridging the gap to present day, proving an essential listen for fans both new and old.

Though there are slight shifts in Underøath’s sound since their last musical venture, the most notable change comes in the religious imagery of the album. As a band who have always claimed faith as a large part of their identity, and with many of their past lyrical narratives encompassing themes of Christianity and spiritual enlightenment, the band have stated that there had been a lot of conflict surrounding faith within the band. Having since claimed that they are no longer operating as a Christian band and with the album art on this release depicting an eroded statue of an angel, this switch in spiritual beliefs is something extremely prominent in the overarching career of the band.

On My Teeth charges in with blistering opening cries of, “Let’s get this straight // I’m fine without you // I’m not your fucking prey // So save yourself // And no one else // What you believe // Your life is a lie.”,  echoing the disenchantment with religion that the band have spoken about since their last appearance on the scene. Chamberlain’s impassioned vocals depict the emotional torment attributed to these kinds of spiritual epiphanies, navigating his audience through his troubled thoughts.

Overall, ‘Erase Me’ strikes a near-perfect balance between the reminiscent sounds of Underøath’s past and a new, fully-focused and expertly-defined direction. The introduction of new elements to the band’s sound serve only to emphasise their already developed talents, with Gillespie’s return proving to be a viable asset for the band's resurgence. Though at points the record trails off into less admirable territory, it’s ability to swiftly turn the tables and redeem itself is commendable. Hopefully, ‘Erase Me’ is just Underøath laying out the groundwork for another go around the track, and if it is, it’s not a bad starting point.