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Not a great line, but it's not bad. - 60%

eyes_of_apocalypse, August 31st, 2012

I remember growing up in the metalcore generation. In those days, I was just discovering metal in a family that has no taste for metal whatsoever; as such, those bands such as Bullet for My Valentine, Trivium, and namely Avenged Sevenfold really pulled me in. Among those bands was Underoath, whom I discovered due to an old friend exposing me to "Writing on the Walls" from this album. At that point, I considered those albums perfect and spent months and even years listening to them as I slowly delved into "true" metal or whatever one wishes to name it.

Fast forward to now, a time where my favorites list is cluttered with bands such as Opeth, Amorphis, Blind Guardian, and other such artists. Those same metalcore albums I used to love I no longer enjoy the same as I used to (aside from Avenged Sevenfold and some Trivium; those bands receive way too much hate), and Define the Great Line is no different.

From an objective and more experienced viewpoint, I believe the key to accepting this album is the viewpoint indeed: this is either a resplendent post-hardcore album (a genre I have always deeply loathed, even during my metalcore days), or a semi-generic metalcore album. Therein may be why the latter era of Underoath receives so much criticism: if one cannot accept this as a hardcore album, he will not accept this as an album worthy of any time at all.

The songwriting is actually quite good for the most part. "Moving for the Sake of Motion" has always been the biggest highlight for me, with slick riffing and an overall enjoyable atmosphere. "To Whom It May Concern" twists the heavy atmosphere on its side, delivering a smooth yet enjoyable and perhaps even emotional experience. On the other hand, songs like "Returning Empty Handed" and "Casting Such a Thin Shadow" work as the antithesis to the songs above, seeming insincere and unnecessary. Then there's "Sālmarnir" - minimalistic and just pointless, with little going on and little reason to exist. Overall, the riffing is generally good enough; the problem with it is when it veers into metal territory. The hardcore-style riffs are good and enjoyable, but the metal riffs seem stale and trite - they are blended well, often times making one difficult to distinguish from the other. In both cases, the song structure is never anything more than simple in rhythm, and rarely deviates from the norm in terms of song structure in any way differently from most other hardcore bands. What this basically means is anybody expecting anything remotely complex or "progressive" is going to hate this.

Another thing that mars the album is the vocals. By all rights, Spencer Chamberlain is a good vocalist, and I certainly prefer him ahead of their previous vocalist. I think he has a great growl, and his hardcore scream is actually good too, though I could go without that. The clean singing is what will drag this album down for any metal fan: it is a textbook example of the emo singing style. There's nothing that separates Aaron's vocals from the hordes of other hardcore bands. I don't think his vocals are bad per se, but it's not what a metal fan is looking for, either in tone or delivery; furthermore, sounding completely unoriginal is nothing but a detriment to the album. That said, there are moments where I believe the vocals to be delivered well, namely in "Writing on the Walls" and "To Whom It May Concern."

Lyrically, this is another bust for the metal elitist, but I honestly believe the lyrics to be good. They're not poetic by any means, but they are an expression of emotion in the best way a hardcore band can do. There's no depression, no wishes of one's own death or the death of one who harmed the writer, and there's no immature idiocracy like one would find in bands such as Blood on the Dance Floor. They are a testament to the struggles of life and an admittance of the writer's faults, in hopes others may read them, relate to them, and find comfort in them; in this, I see nothing wrong. I find "Moving for the Sake of Motion" to be the best display of Spencer grieving over his own faults, and I find something to relate in it myself. Closer "To Whom It May Concern" wraps the lyrical themes of the album up perfectly, leaving a message of hope to the reader, showing this is no suicidal, depressive showcase.

I do not believe this to be a must-have for any metal fan whatsoever. Actually, unless you have any interest in hardcore or metalcore music already, I would advise you to stay away from this. The metal elements here will not hold your attention long enough for you to value what good this album has to offer. With a far more matured taste in music, I no longer appreciate it as I once did either; yet, even so, I find plenty of moments here can still beckon a positive reaction.