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A Hallmark of Aggressive Post-Hardcore - 96%

Schmengie, November 23rd, 2013
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Solid State Records

If I were to name one genre I know of that is even more reviled than metalcore on heavy metal websites such as this one, it would be post-hardcore--the modern form, in particular--at least when sludge metal has little or nothing to do with it. When Underoath released the aptly-titled The Changing of Times and parted ways with Dallas Taylor shortly thereafter, it would sow the seeds of some immense commercial success, greater accessibility, and unfortunately, a less-than-stellar musical direction. Ultimately, they became one of the prominent acts, if not the foremost act, in the whole emo explosion of the mid-2000's. I won't bore you too much with the history--especially since I can't say that I know, or care to know, very much of that history myself--but I will state that those days feel like ancient history now, especially after listening to Underoath's wonderful swansong, Ø (Disambiguation), a title I initially thought to be a rather amusing nod to Wikipedia or some such, but in actuality, a more clever exercise in the practice of self-titling.

It is, of course, common sense that Underoath do not return to their death metal roots on this album, and I always found it idiotic to negatively compare their newer works to the older, rawer outings by simple virtue of the two eras obviously being intended for two completely different audiences with different taste. That is to say that death metal purists and death metal fans with a certain appreciation for older forms of hardcore punk will find nothing truly redeeming in Ø, but also to accede that that this is certainly Underoath's most aggressive album. At heart, it still feels like a post-hardcore record, but what pop appeal might have remained on the two preceding albums, Define the Great Line and Lost in the Sound of Separation, has been shed.

What have been retained are the Isis-inspired post-rock/metal passages, in a vague manner on tracks like "Who Will Guard the Guardians", "A Divine Eradication", and "In Completion", but welcome all the same. Spencer Chamberlain has certainly never been better as a vocalist for this band either, and I wouldn't argue with any claim that he is or was perhaps the best vocalist the world of modern post-hardcore ever knew. His screams have an immensely satisfying intensity about them, exhibiting none of the typical boyish yells of Underoath's contemporaries and truthfully being closer to that of Klas Rydberg, ex-vocalist of Cult of Luna, or perhaps As I Lay Dying's Tim Lambesis if Lambesis placed less emphasis on the lows. They, along with his respectably neutral and whine-less cleans, sit comfortably atop the heavier and meatier riffs, as well as Daniel Davison's stellar performance behind the kit (he filled Gillespie's shoes and subsequently wore them out in this record's forty-minute run time).

I think that Underoath may have taken one or two more cues from prominent sludge metal acts this time around. Isis get another obligatory mention here in regards to composition ("Catch Myself Catching Myself", "Who Will Guard the Guardians", "In Completion"), but the guitar tone suggests something more akin to a less chaotic Siolent Green ("A Divine Eradication", "My Deteriorating Incline"). The difference is that Underoath put a slightly more alternative and accessible, but altogether acceptable, spin on things. Though certainly qualifying as metalcore, there are no songs here that devolve into the characteristic chugging breakdowns that so often break the flow of a song that otherwise had a lot going for it. All of these tracks are fluent, fluid, and gripping from start to finish, and in so being, contribute to one solid experience.

Ø is more concise than its predecessors, most of its eleven tracks not passing the four-minute mark, making for a tight and powerful little package that takes off and doesn't spend much time slowing down. "Paper Lung", the most alternative and vestigial track of the bunch (and still not too shabby, mind you), represents the only respite the listener is afforded through this ride until the post-metal-charged closer, "In Completion", apart from some inter-missive experimentations ("Driftwood", "Reversal"), courtesy of Christopher Dudley. They are welcome in the interest of preventing sensory overload (keep in mind that this is a dirty and distorted, but very pristine and loud record), and even admirable for not breaking the flow of the disc, but otherwise, they don't add much more than that. It might have been interesting for Dudley's synths and programming to have a more prominent role, but that would amount to some risky nit-pickery raised against an album that says what it says more than adequately and doesn't really need to say much else.

This is a record I can always go back to, especially when I want to stop treading the underground for a while, but it has something to offer to open-minded metalheads as well, provided they're not too hung up on the general disdain attached to the band's name. All apologetic statements aside, however, the record stands tall on its own, and is fitting as the final full-length offering by a storied band whose time was altogether short in the grand scheme of things, but whose members always opted to expand into new territories, leaving behind a varied catalogue that validates their legacy. Admittedly, I'm sad to see them go in spite of that; it would have been interesting to see where they would have gone from here. But I can't say I'm not thankful, having heard this.

The Link That Binds Is Dead And Gone - 77%

OzzyApu, September 24th, 2012

The loss of Aaron Gillespie was the greatest thing to ever happen to this band. His departure alone correlates to the creative breathing room this band received. The addition of Daniel Davison and his blustering, unguarded drumming shows a replacement overcoming every fault the predecessor had. Does this change the band drastically by any significant stretch? Not so much - this album won't change the opinions of the most ardent people that dislike Underoath. Hell no, but if there were inklings of even enjoying what this band did with Lost In The Sound Of Separation (specifically songs like "Breathing In A New Mentality" and "Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near"), then Ø (Disambiguation) is a darker, less poppy continuation of that album with better flow.

Gillespie's exit marked a change to a sound that incorporates blemishes of proper hardcore, noise, and progressive / post-metal elements. At heart, Underoath was already going for this sound, but it seems as though Gillespie was the sole member preventing a natural, dynamic shift from taking place. Gillespie's whiney, boyish cleans killed any chance this band had from moving away from alternative / emo-pop territories. This is when Spencer Chamberlain, the band's de facto leader, steps in to fill clean vocals. Comparatively speaking, he's not the harshest screamer / growler nor the most passionate clean singer. For metalcore he isn't bad. I'll take a lot over him, but his basic, fundamental screams and growls coat the pseudo-dissonance and inscrutable soundscapes well enough to fit the part. Chamberlain's cleans essentially are pasted over what Gillespie would have done, but Chamberlain's are less shrill and more complimentary to both the callousness of the harsh vocals and the austerity of the rest of the music.

While metalcore, Ø (Disambiguation) is like listening to a far more straightforward Burst (the Swedish post-metal band). The same polished production, the same blubbery bass, the same caving sound of washy guitars surging with crisp distortion, and the same abstruse drumming (way better on Burst's end) revitalizes the music. On the other hand, such compulsorily pensive metalcore with clean post-metal melodies and a meditative pace (akin to "Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near" from the previous album) leaves even less for the keyboards to do. The electronic / programmed aspect of this band could be diminished even further without harm by booting keyboardist Christopher Dudley - another band member taking up space. His effects don't add that false sense of cinematic / Radiohead vibe that the previous album had, which was pretty useless there as it is here. The one song that he entrenches himself in is in "Reversal," which builds up to nothing.

The main praise falls on how well everything fits together. These intensity-driven songs will do more to overlook the band's previous misses. The aforementioned influences and the loss of Gillespie helped drive the sound to become an Underoath less governed by the worst aspects of the band's past. Don't expect omissions (but certainly expect less) of the following: juvenile cleans, wussy lyrics, alternative rock riffs and leads, incompatible songwriting, and (manufactured) digestible hooks. Nothing this band can do (I hope) will ever top the monumental suckage that was They're Only Chasing Safety. Ever since then, the band has crept their way back into being listenable, with this album being the final step into territory that allows me to remain with them for an entire album. Ø (Disambiguation) is a plain endeavor that shows hope for a stronger direction the band could take.

Underoath - Ø (Disambiguation) - 75%

Secret_Iceland, December 5th, 2010

By this point, there is no questioning that Underoath will never return to their original deathcore sound roots. After making extreme contributions to the popularization of the modern metalcore movement with “Define the Great Line” and even the emo/post-hardcore scene with “They’re Only Chasing Safety”, Underoath seem to have set trends that they have since remained loyal to.

To some extent, that ends here. With the release of “Ø (Disambiguation)”, Underoath find ways to tackle their “signature sound” and add new elements with traits similar to that of progressive acts (think of a metalcore Tool, if you would). This album is most certainly the band’s darkest release since their sophomore album “Cries of the Past”. This could be a result of the departure of founding member Aaron Gillespie, the band’s longtime singer/drummer. Lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain takes over on clean vocals, giving the band a similar, if not better, vocal aspect. Chamberlain’s clean vocals are similar to that of Saosin’s former lead vocalist Cove Reber’s aggressive moments with similar traits as Gillespie’s whines. Chamberlain’s aggressive tone is noticeable straight from the opening track, “In Division”.

Metal extremists may cringe at the term “metalcore”, and they very well should, for metalcore is a subgenre that should be used only if used appropriately. With “Ø”, Underoath certainly use it appropriately, or at least more-so than in the past. Underoath have now become more creative concerning their guitars (their progressive riffs deserve another mention here) and the keyboards now work with the guitars, not vise-versa. The guitars are heavier and the melodies from the prior two albums are still present. Speed and intensity are quite possibly the biggest issues one may have with this album, yet tracks like “Illuminator” contain the intensity Underoath has had in the past. Another one is “My Deteriorating Incline” with its crazy guitarwork and fast drumming (fast compared to other songs on the album).

As mentioned earlier, metalcore is, in a sense, a “dangerous” genre to deal with unless it is handled properly. Underoath has stopped changing and has started maturing, being one of the few bands that have the ability to create a unique album. “Ø (Disambiguation)” marks 2010 as a year that sees multiple surprisingly decent metalcore releases, along with Parkway Drive’s “Deep Blue” and As I Lay Dying’s “The Powerless Rise”.

Recommended for all metalcore fans, worth a listen from fans of progressive/melodic metal.

Underoath finally makes comeback - 78%

dartz123, November 26th, 2010

Underoath's new legendary metalcore album impressed me, I don't mind their emo attempts at metal, but from a metal point of view - their emo stuff did stuck! There's alot that I can say about this new album, but one thing I definitely did notice was the absence of Aaron Gillepsie:

Firstly, there were no emo vocals, but rather progressive metalcore vocals, and Spencer's clean vocals which seems to act out calm didn't have the emo-ness anymore, there was emotion yes but not the self-pitying emo feel. That seemed to fit perfectly with the way he screamed, this new sound was different and after a few listens I started to love it.

Secondly, with regard to drumming I could hear a different form of percussion. It was that kind of "soft-agression" drumming, don't get me wrong their were times when I could hear heavy agression in these drumming patterns, but whenever the clean vocals came up I could still hear agressive drumming, but it wasn't in your face. Which brings me with the conclusion that Underoath was starting to enter a new stage of metalcore, not deathcore (heavens no!) but a clever and intelligent attempt at mathcore! The new drummer did bring along a mathcore sound coming from Norma Jean. I loved every second of it, this was definitely legend!

Third, the guitar wasn't that impressive sadly. It was filled with hard rock-ish riffs which really dissapointed me, this is where the drumming starting to make up for it. The album gripped me with the track "In Division" and left me calm with "Paper Lung" yet I was waiting for something more powerful and I was impressed after hearing "Illuminator" and "My Deteriorating Incline."

If you weren't impressed with "Define the Great Line" maybe this album will make up for it, I recommend it! It was really something awsome!