Underoath - Ø (Disambiguation)
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Record Label: Solid State
It’s truly amazing that Underoath is still a band in the year 2010. After the great success of 2006’s Define The Great Line, the band unexpectedly dropped off the Warped Tour and disappeared, coming close to breaking up due to screamer Spencer Chamberlain’s personal issues. The band bounced back from that rough patch to release the furious Lost In The Sound of Separation. Despite everything, the band had emerged from their hardships more resilient than ever before. But they had to pump the brakes one more time. Tension and disconnect between the band (Chamberlain, guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith, bassist Grant Brandell, and keyboardist Chris Dudley) and vocalist/drummer Aaron Gillespie (the last remaining Underoath member) led to his departure from the band earlier this year. Once again faced with the prospect of disbanding, the band decided to fight through it, enlisting Daniel Davison (formerly of the Almighty Norma Jean) to replace Gillespie behind the kit. After a few jam sessions, the band grew closer, relaxed, and realized that they could attempt some things on their next record that they could never do with Gillespie (as it should be no surprise that he enjoyed the pop side of things). Many things have tried to destroy the Florida metalcore outfit, but just like Michael Myers, no matter how many times you try to kill them, they always come back stronger. And what materialized from the band’s latest struggles and triumphs may be the band’s greatest achievement.
The band’s seventh album, Ø (Disambiguation), is the first to feature none of original members from their 1999 debut Act of Depression. But that doesn’t matter, as this group gives the band a cohesiveness and looseness they’ve never had before. The eleven tracks on Ø (Disambiguation are incredibly diverse, as Underoath continues to push their musical boundaries. The first track, “In Division,” immediately gives your ears a completely new experience from the band, as Dudley’s programming bubbles beneath the rising scowl of McTague and Smith’s guitar riffs. The musical pummeling heard on the verses transitions into a fantastic alt-rock chorus, showcasing Chamberlain’s clean vocals, which brings back memories of the late Alice in Chains crooner, Layne Staley. In fact, the most significant part of this album is Chamberlain’s singing, as this album finally proves that this is his band. Without having to share or compromise his ideas, Chamberlain fully immersed himself into his songwriting, which led to results like the stunning “Paper Lung,” which is one of the best songs the sextet has ever created. It floats along like it’s lost at sea – until it is brought to its knees by an absolutely crushing breakdown that hits like a tidal wave over the course of the final minute.
In fact, it’s the heavy ambiance and atmospheric that appear on tracks like “Paper Lung,” the electronic “Driftwood,” and “Who Will Guard The Guardians?” that will catapult Underoath into that upper echelon among bands like Deftones and Thrice. The musicianship has never been tighter. The guitars groove, Dudley’s programming gives this dark album its eerie feel, and Davison’s drum work allows the band to attempt (and accomplish) styles and tempos they never could before. Ø (Disambiguation) is just the natural progression from their previous two albums. And although there is plenty of experimentation, it still remains an Underoath record at its core. Songs like “Illuminator” and “Catch Myself Catching Myself” flexes some muscular riffage from McTague and Smith, while “A Divine Eradication” and “My Deteriorating Incline” unleash some of the heaviest UØ songs yet.
Ultimately, however, this record is all about Chamberlain. Lyrically, he’s never been better. Vaguely dark yet very impactful, expect to get chills down your spine when he dives to the depths of his voice to scream, “Where is my fix?/Where is my fix?” during the crushing bridge in “A Divine Eradication.” Vocally is where the album comes together, as Chamberlain transitions seamlessly between his screams and cleans (most evident in “Catch Myself Catching Myself” and most impressive in “Vacant Mouth”). Fans will be shocked at how well Chamberlain can sing, thus erasing Gillespie from their memory. It shouldn’t be understated how much the songwriting improved because Chamberlain didn’t have to compromise his writing style. The fact that each song revolves around his vocals gives the album (and band) an intense focus that was missing from each of their prior albums.
It’s unfair to rank or compare this album to the rest of Underoath’s discography, especially the previous two. Each album showcases a different style and mindset, giving Underoath a diverse set of records that can appeal to anyone. But, after plenty of listens, it won’t be hard to hear that this set of songs is by far Underoath’s strongest. The elements of the band complement each other instead of over-powering, thus making Ø (Disambiguation) brutally beautiful and instantly memorable. Their past suggests that they should have broken up a while ago; instead Underoath’s present once again proves that they are the gold standard in the genre.
I've been jamming the whole thing ever since I got my hands on it (don't worry, I'm still definitely going to buy it) and it is just unearthly brilliant. Drew you got it dead on in saying though the instrumentation (especially the drums) are spot on, this is Spencer Chamberlain's album. His vocals are all around incredible. The grungy, rough tone of his voice fits so perfectly with his well-known brutal screams, and the already crushing guitar riffs. Aaron added some great aspects to Underoath vocally and on the kit, but ultimately Spencer's voice (all around) is what's best for this band and Daniel's drumming is just the pinnacle of what a band like Underoath should have, and I have no idea how they will be able to top this.
nice read. i saw aaron's departure as a chance for the guys in UO to evolve their sound. i think the result is impressive. it's pretty hard to distinguish one or two or three songs, because they are all great.
anyways my standout tracks at the moment are definitely 'paper lung', 'who will guard the guardians' and 'in completion'. the chorus of 'paper lung' is so good and the endings of both 'who will guard' and 'in completion' are simply amazing.
besides i think daniel davison did a fantastic job. really like his style of drumming.
The new single isn't bad, and I'm interested in hearing the new cd. But Ill be honest, I miss the pop side of underoath. I could do with a little less metal, a little more clean vocals, and a little less of the sound from the sound of separation.
I used to love underoath, but I'm not a fan of the changing and evolving new sound. It's just not or me. I'd love to have more of the old back, but it is what is. Hope I find something to like in this record. Still my fave live band of all time haha.
Spencer's clean vocals remind me of Anthony Greene at times. Anyone else think so?
I already love this album. The entire sound is exactly where I always hoped Underoath would go. So much darker and more atmospheric without having to shoehorn in Aaron's style.
The 'experimental' songs are actually very good, instead of just feeling like token 'slow' or 'soft' songs. I always kind of felt that way about To Whom it May Concern and Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear. I always liked those songs, but they kind of felt like they didn't really fit into the overall feel of their respective records.