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Take the Underoath you used to know, subtract The Almost and add Norma Jean. That's the new (and improved) Underoath...,
This review is from: Ø (Disambiguation) [+Digital Booklet] (MP3 Music)Confession time. I have never been an Underoath fan. The mere thought of their music always evoked my gag reflex. I formed my opinion of the band based on people I knew who liked them, which, needless to say, wasn't a good opinion. That all changed when I saw them perform live on the Cool Tour this past July. I was blown away at just how wrong I had been about the band and their sound. So the next day, I went back to listen to their albums and, again, I felt an overwhelming urge to vomit. Not only did I not like it, but there were times when it was painful to listen to. There was an obvious difference between the Underoath I saw live, and the Underoath I heard on those albums. That difference was drummer and clean vocalist, Aaron Gillespie, who left the band in April 2010 (a few months before I saw them in concert). Since Ø (Disambiguation) is the first Aaron-less album in the band's thirteen year existence (their fifth full length overall), I eagerly awaited it hoping it would help eliminate the huge disconnect I felt and offer more of what I was looking for from the band.
I'll admit that I was nervous when I received the album. I read through the press materials and a quote from guitarist Tim McTague jumped out at me immediately: "We've never been afraid of singing, but the big poppy choruses are gone. This record has a lot more of a mature feeling. It wasn't that we hated melody, but we wanted it to be a proper fit." Hoping he was right, I held my breath and clicked play.
Ø (Disambiguation)`s first track "In Division" offers up a perfect representation of everything I had hoped for--a thick, driving guitar tone, diverse vocals and an infinitely catchy hook that's completely void of "emo". Frankly, the song sets the bar quite high for the rest of the album. "Catch Myself Catching Myself" continues the album's momentum and kept me feeling quite optimistic about this "new" Underoath. The song features a chorus I'm quite fond of where vocalist Spencer Chamberlain sings "I want to watch them burn it down", mildly resembling Norma Jean's "Falling From The Sky: Day Seven".
The album certainly isn't without its share of pleasant surprises. Dissonance, feedback and distortion are used frequently, but in a pleasing and balanced way that prevents it from being overkill to the listener. The band throws in a few experimental tracks with "Paper Lung", "Driftwood" and "In Completion". All three of these songs see the band take a moodier, more atmospheric approach than you might expect. "Paper Lung" and "In Completion" introduce a slight Deftones vibe to provide a nice change of pace from some of the album's more heavy hitting tracks. "Driftwood" is a Radiohead-inspired song that really shows the band's riskier side. Initially, it was one of the tracks that just didn't work for me personally because I felt it disrupted the album's flow. After a couple more listens though, it really started to settle in to the album nicely.
Other powerful tracks on the album are "Illuminator", "A Divine Eradication", "Vacant Mouth" and "My Deteriorating Incline". However, while Ø (Disambiguation) is a strong album, there were a few minor issues holding it back from the illusive 5.0 rating. I found the tracks "Driftwood" (initially) and "Reversal" to be sub-par in comparison to the remainder of songs presented. And...well, that's really my only complaint.
Ø (Disambiguation)`s production duties were shared by Matt Goldman (producer for all of The Chariot's albums) and Jeremy SH Griffith (producer for Norma Jean's Meridional). That is especially relevant because Underoath set out with a goal to make this album sound much more organic than their previous albums; "more like [their] live experience rather than a flawless, computerized project" according to McTague. Add to that the fact that Gillespie's replacement is Daniel Davison, former drummer for Norma Jean, and it's no surprise that you'll hear hints of mathcore nuances scattered throughout the album.
There is something I feel obligated to note, even though the review risks entering into "too long" territory. Spencer Chamberlain deserves an immense amount of credit for his diverse vocal work on Ø (Disambiguation). To transition from sharing vocal responsibilities with Gillespie to being the sole vocalist is one thing; but to exceed in the manner he does here is something different entirely, and he makes it seem effortless. The previous clean "emo" vocals from Gillespie have been replaced by Chamberlain's airy, atmospheric cleans, and the result is an album with a more mature sound.
It's obvious that this is a more cohesive Underoath than ever before, with a clear vision of who they are and where they are going. Take the Underoath you used to know, subtract The Almost and add Norma Jean. That's the new (and improved) Underoath you'll get on Ø (Disambiguation). It's their most diverse effort yet, and represents a complete rebirth for a band that some might say didn't even need it. As for me, I couldn't be happier with the "new" Underoath. Maybe I wasn't a fan before, but I certainly am now.