Underoath lives on with ‘Disambiguation’

Album: ‘Disambiguation’ Pitchforks: 4 out of 5 Artist: Underoath Label: Tooth & Nail

This last year has certainly been rough for post-hardcore enthusiasts everywhere. It’s as if the scene has become one giant funeral, unfolding in front of our eyes.

Among all the beloved Warped Tour bands to lose their longtime frontmen, perhaps the saddest of all departures belongs to the hardcore giants of Underoath, who recently parted ways with their longtime drummer/singer, Aaron Gillespie. Not only has this news sent shockwaves throughout the scene, but it also left even the most non-emo of fans crying in their rightful corner.

But all joking aside, Gillespie’s departure has brought up some serious questions regarding the band’s uncertain future. After all, Gillespie’s melodic singing was one of the main cornerstones to the band’s initial success. Even with a second lead singer, Gillespie seemed to give the band its identity, that one unique voice that separates them from the entire pack. So it’s quite understandable why fans would await Underoath’s next album with a looming paranoia.

But Underoath’s November release, “Disambiguation,” simply leaves the pieces and moves on. Instead of undergoing the lengthy process of trying to fill Gillespie’s immense shoes, the band has simply made due with its other front man — the harsh-throated Spencer Chamberlain. Now Chamberlain is left with the sole responsibility of singing melodically in addition to screaming his lungs out.

In terms of drumming, the band has recruited ex-Norma Jean drummer, Daniel Davidson, who in many ways matches Gillespie’s drumming skill, if not surpasses it.

Like Underoath’s previous album, “Lost in the Sound of Separation,” their current debut plays off similar sounds, showcasing their incredibly dissonant, drop D riffage. Only now, the pop aspect nursed by Gillespie has been completely phased out on “Disambiguation.” The catchy choruses that Underoath flaunted in previous works has been traded in for Chamberlain’s utterly dismal death howls.

Such is the case on tracks like opener “In Division,” in which the clean vocals sound like they were soaked in a vat of acid. But surprisingly it all comes together quite nicely. Chamberlain is still able to hit all the vocal ranges that Gillespie could, but does so with more grit and more gusto.

On the chaotic “Catch Myself Catching Myself,” a punchy bass line and walls of feedback begin this key track. Despite the albums overwhelming influx of choruses that don’t really lend themselves to poppy radio play, “Catch Myself” shows a modest stab at trying to be more or less catchy.

But, of course, Underoath wouldn’t be Underoath without their occasional slow ballad. After all, they are a Christian band. Sometimes worshipping and moshing just seems like walking and chewing gum at the same time. It gets hard.

Tracks like “Driftwood” and “Paper Lung” jog with a very leisure pace, coming on softly and slowly, almost putting you to sleep. But while Underoath’s previous efforts have conveyed an uplifting quality in its slow jams, these tracks seem to depress the senses. The feeling of inescapable despair weighs down on you like six feet of dirt on top of a coffin.

Yet despite certain downfalls, tracks like “Illuminator” still manage to make believers out of us all. In addition to its overwhelmingly ambient chorus, hardcore fans everywhere can rejoice knowing that this track comes with blast beats, as well as one mean circle pit rhythm.

Even though many fans have been quick to say that Underoath is dead without Gillespie, I will argue the opposite. “Disambiguation” leaves a powerful emotional imprint on the listener in very much the same way that Underoath’s last album did. In my eyes, good music is all about its ability to put you into another place.

As long as Underoath is still making blazing hardcore, steeped with experimental walls of sound, I can’t foresee their end — especially since Chamberlain is more than apt at singing

“Disambiguation” may not be able to lift your spirits, but it will certainly pump your adrenaline glands, leaving you hungry for the next rush.

Reach Dane at djarvie@asu.edu


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