Underoath Rises Up Once More

Photo Courtesy of Tooth and Nail Records

A lot of speculation has been made around Grammy-nominated Florida metalcore sextet Underoath these past six months.

On April 5, 2010, drummer, vocalist and final original member Aaron Gillespie announced his departure from the band after 11 years to focus more on his other (mediocre) rock group, The Almost, along with other musical endeavors.

Since that fateful day, fans everywhere questioned as to whether or not Underoath would remain a band. And if so, who would replace the talented and charismatic Gillespie?

A month following Gillespie’s departure, Underoath announced that they would be recording their seventh studio album with good friend Daniel Davison, formerly of Norma Jean, to replace Gillespie on drumming duties. And on Nov. 9, 2010, Underoath released “Ø (Disambiguation)” on Tooth & Nail Records.

The biggest concerns were not based on whether Davison was the best replacement for Gillespie. Instead, it was a matter regarding vocals. Ever since their 2004 release of “They’re Only Chasing Safety,” the vocal duties were shared between Gillespie and front man Spencer Chamberlain, with Gillespie on straight singing while Chamberlain focused more on screams. For the most part, this partnership appealed to fans and critics alike.

Now that Chamberlain has full responsibility regarding vocals, Underoath proves to skeptics that they do not need Gillespie to make amazing music.

One of the main things that fans have noticed about “Ø (Disambiguation)” is the absence of the pop influences that was generally associated with Gillespie’s contributions. To be frank, it is a change for the better. Not only is this album one of their best work, it also gives the band a new direction to lean toward.

The album starts off with the riff-heavy “In Division.” This opening track feels more like a calm before the storm, starting things off with 11 seconds of tranquil, ambient noise before kicking things off with Chamberlain’s growling screams.

As a whole, the album is darker and more chaotic than anything Underoath has released previously. Such tracks like “Who Will Guard The Guardians” and “A Divine Eradication” exhibit this, combining painfully honest lyrics such as “It’s the awakening of my body’s inner consciousness, a fraction of my sleepless, numb existence,” which explicitly refer to the lead singer’s struggles with sobriety from drugs.

By no means is “Ø” a light record, but there are a couple of tracks that do tone it down. Tracks like “Paper Lung” take a note from Deftones with the slow guitars, jamming drum beats and calming vocal melodies building up to an ear-splitting crescendo. Other tracks like “Driftwood” maintain a calm consistency, with reverb heavy guitars and synthesizers.

Musically, the guitars are just as heavy as their previous works. Fans of their critically acclaimed 2006 release “Define the Great Line,” and their 2008 album “Lost In The Sound Of Separation” will still be able to distinguish that distinct guitar style which incorporates imperfections such as manipulated feedback to supplement the intensity of the songs.

Due to his similarities with Gillespie in terms of musical style, it was a fitting choice to choose Davison. While he may share a similar rhythm and technique to Gillespie’s drumming, there is a distinct difference in Davison’s style, utilizing punk-derived beats heard in some of their faster songs like “Illuminator” and “My Deteriorating Incline.”

Overall, “Ø (Disambiguation)” is some of Underoath’s best work to date. This album shows us that despite the departure of Gillespie, they are able to pull themselves back and produce some of their best work in their 11 years of playing music.

While many fans of Aaron Gillespie’s contribution in the band may be very unenthusiastic toward this album, it is exactly what is to be expected from an Underoath album without Gillespie. Even though not many people listen to the genre, the album is definitely a masterpiece in its own right.

Rating: 5 out of 5