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Act Of Depression - * * *

Cries Of The Past - * * * *

The Changing Of Times - * * * * *

This is not your typical drop D mosh metal. Underoath is the sound of your world coming apart. I found this band after downloading songs from a few hundred bands I had never heard. Underoath came to my attention because they shared a label (Solid State) with bands like Zao, Norma Jean, and Living Sacrifice. Going through the downloads, after listening to about 50 bands in drop D growling about how much the world sucks, I came across Alone In December and When The Sun Sleeps and was fucking blown away. Underoath stood out from every other band because they sounded like none of them. This band plays progressive metal that draws equal amounts of influence from black metal, death, emo, and hardcore. What's more they play this music like pros, equally adept at the different elements of their sound. Most bands would choke on at least one element trying something like this, but Underoath puts their songs together with almost scientific precision. This creates a unique mix that is unlike anything currently being done in metal. The Changing Of Times, the most recent disc, is obviously the choice record here, but honestly if my only point of reference was other bands in the genre they all would have gotten five fucking stars with maybe one exception.

Act Of Depression

Learn to love your enemies, to open their eyes you must be willing to die

- Heart Of Stone

On Act of Depression the band sounds like it is not quite confident with its sound. A good deal of the spoken word sections come off awkward and forced, with the band really concentrating almost solely on religion as the topic for this album. Musically, there is way too much reliance on sludgy mid paced metalcore riffs. The way that they sometimes mix in guttural death vocals, and the occasional appearance of a guitar riff straight out of 80ís thrash, hint at the experimentation this band was working with even at this early stage in their career. For example, the song Act of Depression goes absolutely nowhere for the first few minutes before Underoath finally breaks into this sick fucking death grind with some guttural vocals roaring in the background. The death guy in this band sounds a lot like Nile. This would benefit their sound greatly on the next album but isnít used nearly enough here. Innocence Stolen throws some good old fashioned grindcore into the mix and the singer screams like heís about to lose his shit. Again though, the slower parts are just more midpaced unexceptional hardcore and this is where the band really loses momentum. Watch Me Die picks up the pace with some brutal death metal riffs and what sounds like hints of progressive thrash on the leads. Also whoever that guy is doing the Bruce Dickinson shriek in the background, big props for that shit. I havenít heard anything like that on a real metal record in at least 15 years but somehow it works perfectly. Heart Of Stone has homeboy fucking screaming at the top of his lungs about broken promises and frustration over a slow lumbering bassline and drums. This is some powerful songwriting even if the rest of it is unexceptional. This is the type of thing that sticks in your mind for days after listening to it. The Act of Depression disc hints at what this band is capable of but never fully plays its hand and delivers on that promise. Overall the album is a mostly unexceptional attempt at the kind of stuff that Underoath would perfect on later albums. The CD is dragged down by too many slow and repetitive metalcore riffs, but there are a lot of parts on this disc like the few that I have mentioned here that let you know this band was really capable of a lot more than what is displayed here.

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Reviewed: October, 2003

Cries Of The Past

the wind blew your heart over my eyes and i slept for days
praying not to awake, but these dreams can only last so long
facing the day looking through these tears
i'll always look back and remember that night as you lay there
looking over that casket seeing your face times of past rushing
touching your cold hand wishing it would touch me back
you look so pretty lying there just like the first day we met
it feels so real like old times but it's nothing, it's nothing
i can taste the stale air on my tongue and death lights up the sky
hope finds itself at an end stopping at my thoughts
pictures of you help bring back the tears
walking in the present but living in the past
how much longer will i embrace sorrow?

- Cries Of The Past

If Act of Depression was this bandís Kill Em All primitive and heavy with potential written all over it but never really settling in, Cries of The Past fits its subsequent role nicely as Ride The Lightning, a much tighter and more focused effort than the first album and the realization of what this band was capable of once they got their shit together. On Cries of The Past Underoath plays epic progressive metal with a fully realized emphasis on dynamics and quick change ups. The addition of keyboards and atmospherics also lends this disc some real serious doom metal overtones. For example, And I Dreamt Of You slows down for atmospherics with acoustic guitar and sound effects that evoke the finer points of Opeth and Katatonia. The Last trades off Fear Factory style industrial ambience with metalcore breakdowns and a series of guitar solos accompanied by symphonic doom metal atmospherics in the background. This is a band that is finally playing its hand and Underoath is taking full advantage of the many styles they are adept are playing. The double bass riff in And I Dreamt Of You fucking destroys everything it touches. This is some serious death metal. The band then alternates this riff with blastbeats and some prog metal solos and 80s thrash riffs that would send Shadows Fall scrambling for their notebooks. That break at the 8 minute mark of this song sounds like it was cribbed directly from Iron Maidenís Powerslave era. Then the riff segues directly into about 6 different vocal parts all going on at once, layered on top and alternated with each other in a style that brings to mind some of Nileís better moments. I donít know how many singers this band has, but if that is just one guy being overdubbed that is some of the craziest shit that I have ever heard from a single vocalist. There are about 50 vocal styles on this album and they are all used effectively with one another. Cries of The Past is an amazing song. Epic slow grind death metal that just sounds evil. The dark narrative lyrics about the violent death of a loved one bring the writing to a whole new level for this band, bringing emotional trauma and the consequences of human mistakes and decisions to the forefront of their lyrical style. Something that would be explored a lot more on the subsequent album. Also this song actually features a prog rock keyboard solo and thatís just something you donít hear much anymore. I think thereís some violins under there somewhere too, extra flourishes to set the mood and accompany the brutal death metal that is otherwise going on. At one point the dude just fucking screams over the top of a slow mournful keyboard effect punctuated by the sound of a woman shrieking in the background. Once again, the type of thing stays with you for days afterward and Underoath do a great job of conveying a true sense of loss and regret and human emotion through the music they play here. So overall Cries of The Past is a giant leap forward for this band in both technical and conceptual terms and is a great album. The writing has improved a lot and much more emphasis is placed on personal experience and emotion. The addition of keyboards to pretty much every song and the added emphasis on dynamics and atmospherics moves Underoath out of the standard metalcore realm and into something much more interesting which would be fully realized on their next album.

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Reviewed: October, 2003

The Changing Of Times

I thought you'd come back at least i prayed
the romance has been dead for years
but i've been too afraid to dig the graveÖ

sincerely till the end close my eyes
just for tonight the sun still sleeps
and when she wakes you'll be a memory

-When The Sun Sleeps

The Changing of Times saw Underoath break away from their more traditional metalcore tendencies and move into a more updated sound which still is based in metal but draws a lot of influence from emo. As a genre by itself, Iím not totally sold on emo yet. But taken in small quantities these elements can definitely add a lot of depth and emotional resonance to a well worn style of music. Thatís what Underoath has done here, taken the best elements from emo, the melodic choruses, the emotional connection, the deeply personal lyrics, and incorporated them into their sound to bring the music to another level. The cobra commander sounding guy is back and honestly more pissed off than ever, but now is augmented by sweeping piano arrangements, choruses, and quiet acoustic passages which only serve to emphasize the fury and emotional terror of the heavy parts. Dynamics are key to what Underoath is doing here. The first few seconds of When The Sun Sleeps open with a subtle acoustic intro and then emo guy intones softly ďI thought youíd come backĒ, and then bam the fucking song just erupts into a wall of riffs with shrill guy fucking screaming about pain and loss and regret, offset by the keyboards gracing the background while the other guy sings quietly and softly. This is nothing that hasnít been done before (Waterdown, Love Is Red, Remembering Never), but as far as I know it hasnít been done quite this flawlessly with all of the elements working off one another so perfectly. Alone In December is another amazing song on this disc which works the same soft loud dynamic to precision with an incredible amount of emotion and anger. Speaking of anger, check out The Angel Below halfway through this album. If this song doesnít make you want to stand up and start breaking shit then you should check your pulse. Thereís also some keyboards in there that are straight out of early 80s Rush or New Order. When the keyboards come in on this song for a solo on the break, backed by some heavy bass techno beat, it is pretty god damn amazing to realize youíre listening to 80ís new wave underneath some of the most furious metal ever written. The music on this disc is played with a conviction and attention to detail that allows for the development of deep emotional reaction while still remaining heavy. The metal vocals are fucking sick on this record. I bet this guy is going to be coughing up blood in a few short years because you cannot sing like that and not do permanent damage to your vocal chords. For a group of Christians these guys have definitely been listening to their share of black metal. And for all the Christians out there keeping score, this band is way the fuck better than Norma Jean (still a quality band). The lyrics on this disc, while losing some of the darkly poetic doom metal tendencies of the previous record, outline in gut wrenching personal detail the emotions of loss and regret that come with the end of a close relationship. Underoath are proof that metal bands can convey complex human emotion without sounding fruity and without losing what it is that made them metal in the first place. This is not Carson Daleyís mall emo, this is the real fucking deal, emotionally engaging complex music that switches off anthemeic choruses and stark confessionals with some of the sickest darkest metal ever put to CD. You should pick this one up as soon as possible.

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Reviewed: October, 2003

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