I never had the “luxury” of calling Underoath a band that defined my love for alternative music; I owe that to bands like The Used, Of Mice & Men and Bring Me The Horizon.
Underoath was actually a band that I fell in love with well after my passion for heavier music was already solidified. Nevertheless, their music undoubtedly played a big part in my development as a music lover. They were the perfect in-between for me. I was really into the heavy stuff but goddamn did I love Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. So to have a band that could seamlessly blend those two brands of music into one was, of course, something I could get behind.
So getting to see Underoath perform two of their most iconic albums back to front was nothing I would take lightly. Tonight was something special and marvellous to behold. It was a glimpse back into the wonderful and wild world of Underoath.
‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’
I’ve always found myself far more attached to ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’ than any of their other albums. Most likely because I will forever have a soft spot for the type of post-hardcore that sits firmly on the fence between being goddamn pop-punk and relentless hardcore band. And ‘They’re Only…’ was exactly that. Songs like ‘Down, Set, Go!’, ‘A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White’ and ‘Reinventing Your Exit’ ticked all the right boxes and have stuck with me ever since my first listen. So I was nervous about how they would go down live. Would they live up to the expectations I had in my head? Would it feel as euphoric as I had always dreamt it to be? And what about the songs I wasn’t sold on? Would I finally see ‘I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today’ and ‘Young & Aspiring’ in a new light after experiencing them in a cramped and sweaty room filled with the emotion and energy of the punters next to me? Or would they still not connect with me the way they always haven’t? Let’s find out in my latest think piece!
‘Young & Aspiring’
The band launched onto the stage as any old band would: ferociously and passionately. As I watched each member move and fly about on stage with nothing but joy in their eyes, I couldn’t help but notice something: the song was already playing. I hadn’t even felt, nor even really noticed that ‘Young and Aspiring’ was staring me right in the fucking face and I was oblivious to it. It had sort of started up in a bewildering mess that blended with the opening sample, drone noise thing and for me, I had felt no impact whatsoever. And if it weren’t for the swarm of bodies colliding with each other and pressing against me, I would have to say it wasn’t the greatest start to the show. Which fell right in line with how I feel about it as the album opener; clunky, awkward and out of place.
‘A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black And White’
So full disclosure, I fucking love this song. It’s exactly what I was talking about with the blend of pop and mainstream sensibilities and melodies with a hardcore influence that serves itself in the best way possible. The first time I heard it, I got chills down my spine. The scope of the song on the record is phenomenal. I had looked forward to this day for a long time, seeing this song live. In my head, every time that famous post-chorus break hits (you know the one) I imagine myself in a massive room filled to the brim with people, screaming the words out and hurting my lungs doing so. I really wanted this song to live up to my nostalgic expectations and dreams. And it did!
The catharsis of screaming the lyrics and waving my fist in the air in unison with everyone else was unreal. And when it hit the part where it falls away and there’s nothing to hold the song but a palm muted guitar and the lyrics: “Well, look who’s dying now”, the crowd seized the chance and belted out the words as loud as it could, myself included. It. Was. Beautiful.
‘The Impact Of Reason’
I’ve always been on the fence with this once. On the one hand, its separate parts are great and are really enjoyable I always found the song to drag and lull with its lack of distinguishable dynamic. Especially after the high of ‘A Boy Brushed Red…‘ with its rises and falls. But here at 170 Russell on a Monday night, every member of Underoath poured every part of themselves into the song and gave it a whole new feeling. The song came to life right before my eyes and I finally felt it. There was an ebb and flow to the track and there was a goddamn presence to it that just gets lost on the record but one that isn’t lost in translation on the stage.
‘Reinventing Your Exit’
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swoon for this song’s chorus. ‘Reinventing Your Exit’ is an absolute bop, and it’s all thanks to that tag team chorus between vocalists Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain. I’m not ashamed to admit this is a song I’ve rocked out to in my bedroom, going full iPod commercial; hair flipping, swinging hips and all. So, as it came around to that first chorus as I stood shoulder to shoulder with other sweltering bodies I realised I wouldn’t be able to replicate those same motions here. So I settled for the classic finger point and aggressive face scrunch to compliment my off-key singing and howling. As I did so, I felt the exact same feelings I normally get from listening to this song as I do on the record. This was a perfect representation of everything encapsulated on the record.
‘The Blue Note’ // ‘It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door’
As the sampled ‘The Blue Note’ played, I’m reminded why this song doesn’t sit on my phone alongside the rest of the album. I never really felt it had a purpose here on the album and in the live setting, it felt not much different. If I wasn’t that big of a fan of Underoath, I would have just thought it as an instrumental soundbite that serves as an excuse so the band can take a breath and get a sip of water.
As it cuts into ‘It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door’ I’m reminded of my gripe with this song. It goes back and forth and dallies before getting to the real meat of the song that EVERYONE is waiting for – that wondrous choral section. I’m anxious and nervous as I await this part of the song that I’m practically fidgeting. So far, the song has felt the same as it did on the album: long and drawn out and tedious despite its average four-minute length. Then, before I know it, every instrument cuts away and it’s the crowd’s time to shine. In a moment of solidarity we all scream out the iconic sing-a-long: “Drowning in my sleep/I’m drowning in my sleep!”
I wish I could describe this moment to you. I really wish I could but there was something about it that was just on a whole other level from anything a studio recording of a choir could ever achieve. It was a moment of pure bliss and togetherness that will remain in my memories forever and the same goes for everyone in that room. If you missed out, then sorry; I can only wish to ever describe it. But to even attempt would do it an injustice. Just know, there’s a whole lot more this song has to offer when you step into the live setting. A whole fucking lot!
‘Down, Set, Go!’
This was one of the first songs by Underoath that really, really stuck with me. It leant far more to the mainstream side of the spectrum whilst still infusing nuances of hardcore and hard-rock into its sound bed. It was the weed of Underoath songs; a perfect gateway. So for years, I’ve had some pre-conceived notions about how this should go down live and the imagery that goes along with it. And it went almost to a tee. Chamberlain kicks the song off and then everyone in the room launches into a frenzy, a crowd surfer essentially rolls off of the crowd and into the photo pit as if an explosion has sent him flying. It’s exactly how I had always envisioned it to play out. Like a bomb went off. Similar to ‘Reinventing Your Exit’, everything that gives the song it’s flavour and personality, from the dynamics to the cracks in the vocals, are all present and powerful.
‘I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today’
I am not a huge fan of this song on the record. Most likely because I always like it when Underoath are pushing the boundaries of the genre and daring to go out of the comfort zone but here it always felt like that was missing. It’s the one song on the record, bar ‘The Blue Note’, that feels like real filler. And I cannot for the life of me shake that feeling, as I watch the band throw themselves around on stage. The song is just missing that…special something, and I don’t think there was anything they could have done to bring it to life on this Monday night.
‘I’m Content With Losing’ // ‘Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape’
I’m not gonna say too much here for the first track as my feelings towards it are pretty much the same as they were for ‘A Boy Brushed Red…’ and ‘Down, Set, Go!’. I loved the song on the record and I fucking loved it live. Once again, Underoath nails a perfect shift between the studio and the stage. Though they did do something interesting towards its end. They omitted the song’s normal outro and instead bled it all into a fuzzy and distorted rendition of ‘Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape’. They rid the song completely off its stadium rock persona and turned it into a melodic-harsh noise wall of sound that sent them off the stage for an interval between sets. I’m not sure how I feel about this as on the one hand, the song has itself aged and feels somewhat cheesy and was done far better with later tracks like ‘Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear’ on 2008’s ‘Lost in the Sound of Separation’. So I understand the reason for the change but on the other hand, it’s a part of their legacy!
That song was a part of what helped make ‘…Safety’ what it was. So I’m torn. And most likely will be forever torn.
‘Define The Great Line’
‘Define The Great Line’ is not an album that I would say holds much significant meaning to me [be more wrong. – Alex]. I enjoy it, no doubt but unlike ‘…Safety’ I can’t make any grand claims about it impacting my life. So this discussion will be far shorter and conscience then that of ‘…Safety’. Just a heads up.
‘In Regards To Myself’
Too much of my surprise, this opener was the complete inverse of how I felt about ‘Young & Aspiring’. This song works great as an introduction to the album and the live set. With a crunchy riff and a thunderous send-off into a full band array of sound, it really grabs you by the throat and makes one hell of an entrance. On the record, though, the song lags and falls behind as it continues for me with no real sense of purpose or meaningful structure. But there was something on this night however that the band was able to bring to the table with their energy and emotion that really propelled the song along and really gave it a sense of urgency. Underoath was far more visceral in the way they played here and it really made a difference. You could truly feel the music with or without a previous connection with the song itself. This was a sign of good things to come!
‘A Moment Suspended In Time’ // ‘You’re Ever So Inviting’
My original issue with these two songs originates from the lack of depth I find they have on the album. Things rise and fall and hit where they should but there always seems to be that extra bit to it missing and it drags the first part of this record down with it. Now, maybe it’s because it’s louder in the venue or the sound starts to just mould into one through a PA but that issue was well and truly gone as the sextet bounded across the stage. I think I was starting to see what was going on here. The band had so much more fire and passion for this album and it was making this transition from studio to stage a positive one. There seemed to be true care and thought taken here and I could only hope that this would continue.
‘You’re Ever So Inviting’
Now, this was something I could fuck with! Easily one of the best songs on this album, I was more than psyched to see what would become of ‘You’re Ever So Inviting‘, especially after the track record the band was on now of bringing this record to its best version. And they delivered yet again! Mother of God, this one of gorgeous. I love it on the record for the same reason I loved here: All the little nuances. Whether it’s the subtle yet pleasing chords that are littered throughout, the widely varied drumming and structure that keeps you on your toes and of course the impact every part has. There was a lot of care taken to make this song as impactful as it was when teens all over the world were blasting it through their stereos for the first time back in 2006.
‘Salmarnir’ // ‘Returning Empty Handed’
At the rate they’re going, Underoath had me well and truly sucked in. I’m wasn’t even aware that I was watching the most predictable setlist of all time – an album set. I was engrossed in the world that’s being created before me and as such, the combination between ‘Salmarnir’ and ‘Returning Empty Handed’ is one that fits like a jigsaw. The band and the crowd are on such a high of energy now that one of my least favourites from the record is now a blistering and powerful enigma and a highlight of the set. I would never have thought that there would be such a switch in the way these songs feels that extends beyond you’re usually raw and energetic live version.
‘Casting Such A Thin Shadow’
Whilst talking about getting sucked up in the music, this track is utterly enchanting. It’s actually my favourite song on this record (sorry ‘Writing On The Walls’) for the sheer fact of how it washes over you and just builds and builds and builds until reaching its utter breaking point. It’s otherworldly on the album and live it’s a goddamn spectacle! As Chamberlain himself takes up guitar duties for a three-guitar attack, the band all work together to create a soundscape and a world of their own that transfixes everyone in the venue. The wall of sound aspects of the track itself fuses with the heightened emotions in the room to make for something truly spellbinding.
‘Moving For The Sake Of Motion’
Look, I’ll be honest, I don’t have much to say on this one. I’m just simply not a big fan of it when I’m sitting by self with headphones in and it didn’t move me as I stood in the crowd gazing up at the flashing lights and jerking bodies. I feel like maybe this was because on the inside when I listen ‘Define the Great Line’ and when I was watching the live set, I’m just so eager to get to the next song which is one I adore with all my heart.
You know the one…
‘Writing On The Walls’
Probably one of the more melodic and “mainstream” songs on ‘Define the Great Line’, I shouldn’t have to explain why I love it so. But I will. It’s because it reminds me a lot of the band’s ‘…Safety’ era. The song’s a giant mashup of hooks and melodies sewn into crushing rhythms and riffs. It’s the Goldilocks song or the album. But I know for a fact I’m not alone in my love for this one. The crowd’s energy shifted from electric to absolutely explosive the moment that intro chord began to be strummed. The crowd crushed forward, people eager to get as close as possible to the people who penned this gem and I have to say, the crowd was what really made this one. Along with my undying affection for it, the crowd’s energy, movements and the overall tone are what elevated this part of the set to stratospheric heights. We all fed off each other’s love and energy and emotion as all the feeling in the room snowballed into a roaring avalanche of catharsis, capped off by the song’s heavy and brutal final bars.
‘Everyone Looks So Good From Here’
Similar to ‘Moving…’ I wasn’t really swayed much by this track so there isn’t much to say. It defiantly to me feels like a filler song that doesn’t hold that special something most Underoath songs have [wrong again. – Alex.] So when it comes to pulling it out live, it can’t suddenly become this wondrous piece of art for that was missing in the first place.
Man, that’s harsh.
‘To Whom It May Concern’
‘To Whom It May Concern’ works in the exact same way that ‘Casting Such A Thin Shadow’ did. It’s the build-up, the ebb and flow and rises and falls that turns this song into something that transcends the typical live experience and engulfs you whole. I stood perplexed as I watched this band recreate a terrific outro song into a mesmerising exeunt. I shook myself back into reality as the feedback from the guitar faded out and the reverberations from the beautiful cacophony dissipated into the walls and began to process what just happened. This band had redefined this album in an entirely new setting for me. And I will be forever thankful for that!
I won’t say much more here as I’ve taken up most of your time already, no doubt. You know how I feel from the words I’ve written above so who needs some dumbass conclusion to re-tell you what I said? Nobody, that’s who! But I do just want to say one thing:
Underoath is a band that doesn’t come around often.
They are something truly special and are something to be admired and adored. So when you’re friends ask you about the shows you go to or the records you listen to, don’t just call them “fucking sick, aye”; call them what they are: An experience like nothing you’ve had before.
All photo credit goes to Digital Beard Photography. Amazing Work as per usual!
Also, shout out to my boys in sleepmakeswaves. What another amazing band! Seriously, we must cherish them also!