It’s truly confounding that Underoath chose to stick with Tooth & Nail for yet another album, when they could’ve easily been riding major label dough since 2005 (if not earlier). Sure, their sound is a little jarring for radio or MTV, but it’s certainly FUSE-friendly; their last few albums have achieved massive critical success; they’ve got the Christian leanings; and by this point, they’ve become arguably the biggest band of their metalcore genre.
Perhaps it’s their creative ambition. Since 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, which practically perfected the interlacing of the pop of guilty pleasure nuevo-emo with flashes of sheer aggression, they’ve seemingly become exponentially tired of the format and have played around with electronic flourishes and heavier tendencies ever since. Lost in the Sound of Separation, while certainly not the most perfected result of this creativity, is an electrified, ambitious and very accomplished effort.
“Breathing in a New Mentality” opens with deceiving lo-fi drum slams before it becomes all juggernaut guitar scowls and low howls. The first clean vocal line of the album doesn’t come until nearly two minutes into the next song, “Anyone Can Dig a Hole But It Takes a Real Man to Call It Home,” and it’s a symbol for the entire album; lead screamer Spencer Chamberlain has taken even more of the vocal reigns, letting drummer and backup vocalist Aaron Gillespie focus more on his kit. When Gillespie does join in, it’s much more punctual than on 2006’s Define the Great Line; his best show comes in tracks like “We Are the Involuntary,” “Coming Down Is Calming Down” and the more uptempo “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures,” where, despite sounding an awful lot like Saosin’s Cove Reber, his yelps provide a welcome cleansing contrast.
More production tricks litter “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine,” but one will really take notice when the strikingly unique and surprisingly long “Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near” comes next. It’s nearly six minutes and moves from one passage to another in impressive acts of restraint; an ominous, bellowing chorus soon gives away to a ragged climax that recalls Isis at their best. The skittering programming and creepy gang singing towards its close on “The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed” resemble Fear Before the March of Flames’ similarly experimental The Always Open Mouth.
The moody underpinnings of Define the Great Line made it a seemingly darker counter to Chasing Safety’s sunnier bursts, and the band clearly progress here in the direction of the former. Chamberlain is often locked in a struggle with God over his very publicized drug habits of last year, and the music matches it perfectly. Sure, agnostics and atheists might prop up questions of validity for one certain aspect of this lyrical struggle, but Chamberlain’s habits were actually real, and it makes narrative lines like “Every motion is paranoid and paralyzing” and “The floors are shaking” truly come alive.
Never heavy for the sake of heavy and rarely experimental for the sake of the same, Lost in the Sound of the Separation may not be a consistently astounding opus, but to say it isn’t often mesmerizing and provides a number of impressive left turns and challenges would be baseless denial.
The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures