A high-energy genre-bender that may take you by surprise.
Whether you like the descriptor or not, the word “emo,” and in some cases “screamo,” describes both a musical style and, at least a decade ago, a style of personal aesthetic expression. You don’t often hear it used anymore with respect to bands. Some consider it a derogatory term and some have adopted it. The bands originally associated with the term have since evolved into new forms with more specific genre-labels. Some are simply offering “rock band” as the label of choice. Still others seem to be pushing farther in the direction they began, as if there were more ground to gain. On Erase Me, Underoath’s first record in eight years, they’ve reassembled the band to unleash a high-energy genre-bender that may take you by surprise for a number of reasons.
Founding drummer Aaron Gillespie is back for the first time in 10 years and right out of the gate he seems to have something to prove. Every indication is that he had a secret conversation with the recording engineers to ensure that his drum patterns absolutely dominated the record. Album opener “It Has to Start Somewhere” sees him relentlessly pounding out drum fills, preferring dynamics to simple, predictable patterns. The result is something urgent and fresh. Several songs on the record, most notably the lead single “On My Teeth”, showcase Gillespie exploding into unstoppable drum rolls only to be joined later by Spencer Chamberlin’s impossibly raspy wale.
The band’s strength is their metalcore influence, which comes honestly, from a legacy of hardcore sounds throughout their career. “Rapture” goes a little too poppy during the verses, however, and they allow their inner boy-band to blossom on “Wake Me” in a way that’s a little jarring for fans of the fury. You could certainly argue this is versatility, but sitting right next to “On My Teeth,” this track feels misplaced.
Once a Christian band, or perhaps more accurately, a band made up of self-proclaimed Christians who played not-particularly-Christian music, Underoath now only has a single member who identifies as a believer. It’s hard to say how much that may or may not have influenced their music, but it’s notable that this is the first album which features an element of profanity, even if rather mild compared to other bands in the genre. It’s barely worth mentioning, given the fact that with or without such language, the rage comes through fully on “Sink with You” and “On My Teeth.” It makes no difference that the high-quality production presents the vocals as sweet and syrupy when just a few bars later they erupt into a demonic howl.
The most compelling components of this record are the mix of violent drums, screamo vocals and interestingly placed bars of pop electronica. The frequent juxtaposition of the two styles serves to emphasize each part and gives the experience an almost schizophrenic feel. With strong choruses and musicality throughout, this album is poised to be an overall fan favorite and one of the most successful of the band’s career. At the very least, you have to give them credit for staying true to their direction even with such a drastic span between records. Nobody told Florida’s Underoath that emo was dead, and upon the release of Erase Me, the dubious genre has never felt more full of life.