Just about 20 years ago, Underoath were a fledgling, young screamo band attempting to make their mark at the cusp of the genre’s commercial reckoning. Like many of their peers, they experienced the turbulence of being a band under those circumstances. They experienced line up changes. Toured. Switched labels. Toured. Were accused of selling out. Toured. Broke up for a time. Got back together and toured. And through it all, produced seven noteworthy full-lengths that aptly represented who they were at each stage as a band, nevermind helping define and refine the genre.
So, here we are two decades later, and the reunited incarnation of Underoath have returned to face the cliches of bands who return from sabbaticals to reunite.
Erase Me is the first full-length since 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation) and despite the hiatus, in many ways feels like it picks up seamlessly where the band left off compositionally and sonically in their maturation trajectory. Underoath always straddled an uncomfortable line between hardcore’s raw aggression, emo’s passionate introspection and post-punk’s 80’s roots in a way that uniquely worked, and they successfully drop the bucket back into that turbulent well.
A haunting piano melody that is eventually overlayed with a lilting vocal line opens the album. The vocals devolve into impassioned screams overset on thickly distorted guitars and keyboard-infused orchestrations. Then, as quickly as it built up, it’s gone again. This undulation reoccurs again not only through the dynamic lead track, “I Gave Up,” but throughout the entirety of the album.
Post-industrial and EDM production techniques that were occasionally tapped in the past return to give an unexpected depth to tracks like “Hold Your Breath” “Bloodlust” and “Rapture” despite the divergent sonic directions of each song. Meanwhile, a progressive mathcore-type vibe that was insinuated in the past takes its place in the approach during “In Motion” and “On My Teeth,” while a more straightforward onslaught of metalcore aggression kicks you during “Hold Your Breath.” All of this is, of course, offset by the genre’s expected runny eyeliner moments during “No Frame,” “ihateit” and “Wake Me,” which bring both soaring and introspective approaches together in emotional fisticuffs.
That’s not to say any given song is insular to these descriptions. “Hold Your Breath” possesses a brutality during the verses that is shear metalcore at its finest before dissipating into a chorus of flighty melodic swings even with the electronic production intercut into it. “On My Teeth” features more sing-along, finger-pointing moments during the chorus structure and leverages a bit of electronic production to stabilize the more chaotic vibe. “No Frame” initially comes out with a heavily electronic vibe only to reveal itself as being an emotionally distraught pseudo-ballad with these undulations into attempts at artsy yelling.
And then there’s the closing track, “It Has to Start Somewhere,” that completely brings the effort full circle to where it began and in the same breath, emotionally and socially recaps the entirety of the album – and to a degree, the band’s career to this point itself. If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s only subtly not true. While perhaps not the most memorable track, it encompasses the best part of all your favorite songs both on the album and through their tenure, putting a nice little bow on 20 years of what Underoath were, are, and will hopefully continue to be.