Underoath have produced the most important album of their careers. It’s not their best – for my money that’s Define the Great Line or Ø (Disambiguation), though time will certainly tell; nor is it necessarily perfect. However, it light of everything the band have been through personally and professionally, it feels like the most honest and triumphant album of their careers. For a group who basically wrote the book (or at least a few chapters) on emotionally-charged, heartfelt metalcore, Erase Me tackles some of the band’s lyrical staples (identity, grace, and the search for meaning) with a raw intensity that is exceptionally riveting. It’s impossible to separate nostalgia and narrative from any discussion of this improbably (and convincing) comeback album, but Erase Me has shattered expectations, even if Underoath have taken quite a few lovely left turns. It’s passionate, powerful, and full of those stomach-lurching moments of greatness that create lasting musical memories. In short, despite some obvious changes, Underoath are absolutely back and are forging their own wonderful path forward.
Most notably, arguably the biggest Christian metal band of all time came back from the dead, during Easter week, no less. Of course, Underoath’s very public disavowal of the “Christian” label carries around a fair bit of baggage with it, but few records have so publicly grappled with a loss (and renewal) of faith. Whatever the members’ individual personal belief systems are now, it’s clear on Erase Me that dogma is a thing of the past, replaced by a focus on mental health, acceptance, and unity. Underoath’s greatest lyrical strength was always their ability to dig deep into human trauma and tragedy and champion resilience (think “It’s Always Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”). That mindset is on full display throughout the record, so while some may focus on the idea of Underoath losing their religion, it’s clear they haven’t lost their spirit. In fact, considering the band made their mark in the CD booklet era, it’s notable that Erase Me is filled with the type of lyrical depth that rewards attention and repeat listens.
Hell, the whole album is a throwback to when albums flowed together purposefully – much like how Define the Great Line embraced the push and pull of inter-album dynamics. Erase Me is a full-album experience that feels like a bridge between Underoath’s previous four records and vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s electronic rock project Sleepwave. Christopher Dudley’s synth-work and programming, along with pulsing bass-lines from Grant Brandell result in the most industrialized version of the band yet. However, the stars of the show are Chamberlain and drummer Aaron Gillespie, whose kit work is as impressive as ever (“On My Teeth” will make fans smile). Their vocal trade-offs skew fairly heavily toward Chamberlain’s dexterous pipes, which makes sense in keeping with the darker sound. It doesn’t always work, most notably in sections of “Rapture” and “I Give Up” that feel a bit out of sorts, but Underoath are at their most visceral and exciting on songs like “Sink With You” and the throwback number “In Motion”. For those clambering for the band to feed into nostalgia, “Bloodlust” features the band’s best vocal interplay since “A Moment Suspended In Time” and a whopper of a hook to boot.
Ultimately, Erase Me isn’t the sound of a band attempting to cautiously get its musical feet back; it’s the result of a former heavyweight champion regaining his punching power. Despite taking a slightly different lyrical and musical approach, a band who built their career on connecting with listeners and delivering sonic haymakers are back and as visceral and exciting as ever. They aren’t resting on past successes, and Erase Me is a Hell of a promising start for the band.