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An Excellent Album - 91%

Erdrickgr, January 16th, 2008

In the year and a half since I first reviewed this album, my perception of this album has slightly changed (for the better), Underoath have released another CD, and I noticed a few mistakes in my review. So, with that said, I think it's time for an updated review of this album.

At one point on this album, the vocalist yells: "You want me to disappear? Well so do I!" ('There Could Be Nothing After This'). I'm sure many metalheads hope that this does indeed happen. As for me, the last thing I want is for Underoath to disappear, because over the course of the last three records, they've gotten progressively better with each effort, culminating with this record, their best since their debut in my opinion.

I have done two negative reviews of Underoath material: I gave 'Underoath: 777' (DVD) a rating of 35, and 'The Changing of Times' (CD) a rating of 20. Suffice to say, I wouldn't hesitate to slam this band if I thought their material sucked. But that's not the case with this CD, which actually has some very good music on it. And I don't know if it qualifies as metal according to the Metal-Archives criteria, but this album is a bit heavier than the previous two efforts as well.

I only have one minor issue with this album: the vocals. They aren't terrible, they're just... almost everywhere, and sometimes quite lackluster. Especially frustrating is Underoath's knack for covering up their half-way interesting guitar work with vocals (e.g. 'Everyone Looks So Good From Here'). This is not to say that they have a ton of cool riffs like a thrash record might, but only that some riffs are better than others, and that the riffs that skew towards the good side often seem to be the ones playing servant to the vocals.

The screaming, and especially the clean singing, on this album are hit and miss, with songs like 'To Whom It May Concern' being absolutely fantastic and very memorable, while songs like 'You're Ever So Inviting' are definitely lackluster. Overall the vocals don't really detract from the songs, but on the other hand there are only a few times when they help a song soar. This band does much better when using a darker, more atmospheric tone, though they don't often delve into those realms.

When the vocals do rest for a moment, this album is much better than previous ones at distinguishing between guitars, bass, drums, etc. This time around we don't have a big glob of sound. The riffs are on the simplistic side, but they are also improved here, and create a decent soundscape throughout the album. The guitarists are not overly technical, fast, or even heavy for that matter, but they do the job somehow in creating aggressive music when needed, and also slower, more atmospheric stuff when needed. A lot of people probably think that these guys can't play their instruments, but I think it's just a case of them having an unconventional style. Certainly Underoath aren't doing the more conventional style of riffing that they were doing on their first two releases.

The bass plays a more prominent role on this album, which is certainly a positive. Having said that, the bass still "sits at the back of the bus," so to speak. It works out well, though, as someone has to be towards the back, to help create a thick, three-dimensional sound. On drums, Gillespie seems to not be the most technically advanced drummer, but he plays well with and to the music, and it seems to me that he busts out some interesting stuff every once in a while.

Everything sounds good on this album as far as song lengths go, with nothing sounding rushed, or on the other hand drawn out. Nothing seems forced, but everything is in it's place. It is true that many of the songs sound the same at first. I think that this is one of those albums that takes a dozen or more spins to really get into. There are significant differences between songs, but because of the pervasiveness of the vocals on the heavier material, those differences get blurred at first.

Some variety is added in the middle in the form of two contrasting songs back to back. The first song, Salmarnir, is an excellent, slow, atmospheric song, in which a man is speaking in Russian. The second song, Returning Empty Handed, while not being ultra-heavy, is still the heaviest song on the album. These two songs define the line, as it were, and from that point on, the flow of the album is improved and the material is better.

The lyrics on this record are about becoming more than you are, daily struggles, and about facing life and it's problems. I think the lyrics are actually pretty good, and have kept a small part of the catchiness exhibited on the previous album, 'They're Only Chasing Safety'. Underoath don't beat you over the head with Christianity, with the only possible exception being the inclusion of Ps. 50 (spoken in Russian). But then, how many people listening to this record actually understand Russian? In my opinion, anyone who finds the lyrics on this album preachy are definitely engaging in eisegesis.

The booklet that came with the CD is a bit of an enigma to me. It is 30 pages long, yet has only 7 pages being used for lyrics and such. The rest of the pages are for pictures and artwork. The problem is, it's all very dark. And I don't mean that the imagery is dark, but I mean that the book is literally dark, and it's hard to see the pics and art work. It was definitely done on purpose, though I'm still not sure what the meaning of it all is.

In the end, I'd say that there is a lot of decent music here. This band started out their career pretty well, then hit a rut in the middle, but they came back with this very good record (though in a totally different genre than the early Underoath albums). I found nothing terrible on this album, much that is above-average, and even some great moments here and there. Of particular note are 'Salmarnir,' 'To Whom It May Concern,' and the magnificent song 'Casting Such a Thin Shadow'.