At one time, Underoath dominated the post-hardcore genre. With Spencer Chamberlain screaming his lungs out (and probably his vocal chords too) and Aaron Gillespie providing both immaculate clean vocals and jaw-dropping drumming, Underoath helped pave the way for an emerging genre and lived atop the throne, even above the likes of The Devil Wears Prada, We Came As Romans and all those who followed in their footsteps. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to last, as Gillespie left the group following their third album, Lost In The Sound Of Separation. With Gillespie’s departure, Underoath found themselves without their mesmerizing drummer and superb clean vocalist, leaving the future of the band in possible doubt and disarray. However, the band would not be denied and quickly came storming back with their fourth album, the dark and moody Ø (Disambiguation). Simply put, this is Underoath as good as Underoath can be without Gillespie. Daniel Davison (formerly of Norma Jean) fills in quite nicely on the drums and Spencer Chamberlain surprisingly expands his vocal range well as he covers both clean and unclean vocals, but it’s hard to imagine this album wouldn’t have been even more ambitious and transcendent if Gillespie had still been around. This is album turned out much better than expected, with a brooding and introspective mood to complement its grand and foreboding scope, but ultimately, falls just short of this band’s full potential.
“Catch Myself Catching Myself” follows a dynamic and aggressive opener (further enhanced by Chris Dudley’s synthesizers), but ups the ante even more with the best song on the album and one of the best in Underoath’s history, Gillespie or no Gillespie. Chamberlain’s balance between blood-curdling screams and rough-around-the-edges clean vocals perfectly illustrates the drama and intensity of this well-written song. Tim McTague’s white-hot guitar riffs have rarely been more predominant while James Smith’s rhythm guitar and Grant Brandell’s bass give the verses pace and build up the song’s character. Davison’s drumming is creative enough to live up to the Underoath name, but one can’t help but think of the possibilities had Gillespie stuck around. Regardless, however, “Catch Myself Catching Myself” is a truly transcendent track and post-hardcore masterpiece, which is most evident during the song’s breathtakingly epic climax.
“Who Will Guard The Guardians” brings the same energy and aggression of some of the band’s heavier songs but gradually builds into it, heightening the drama of Chamberlain’s climax, punctuated perfectly with the formidable growls of “Revolve!” This song isn’t fast-paced and it isn’t the peak of Underoath’s instrumental talent, but this seemingly mellow rocker quickly takes a turn for the dramatic with Chamberlain’s coarse clean vocals, sedating guitar and the steady roll of the battle drums, making the intensity and emotion that builds up worth remembering.
“In Completion” is a fitting climax to this moody album, appropriately accentuated with Chamberlain’s rough and unrefined clean vocals, consisting mostly of desperate wailing that complements the electric buzz of the guitars. Underoath once again displays their talent for inserting breakdowns wherever they please, utilizing that ability in the album’s closer to finish on an epic note.
This is about as good as Underoath can be without Aaron Gillespie. Chamberlain truly made strides as a vocalist in his newfound (and likely practice-makes-perfect) ability to handle both the clean and unclean vocals this time around, but Ø (Disambiguation) still comes up short without Gillespie around. The drumming of Davison is perfectly adequate, but still leaves something to be desired in the wake of Gillespie’s ridiculously creative drum schemes. The clean vocals also aren’t as sharp without Gillespie to drive home the accompanying drama to Chamberlain’s spine-tingling screams, even if the band’s new lead vocalist is starting to come into his own. Chamberlain seems to live in the middle ground between screaming and wavering singing, which leaves something to be desired in the wake of Gillespie’s powerfully clairvoyant songbird vocals. However, he gets the job done and absolutely delivers hair-raising shrieks and pronounced howls to further add to the album’s dark and brooding tone. Fans of The Devil Wears Prada, The Almost, We Came As Romans, Norma Jean, Saosin, August Burns Red, Haste The Day, Demon Hunter, Atreyu, For Today, As I Lay Dying, Chiodos, Of Mice & Men, Miss May I and Bring Me The Horizon will be able to appreciate this newest effort, even if Underoath faithful still long for Gillespie’s return. But in the event that day never comes, Ø (Disambiguation) should provide hope for the future and that, at the very least, the quality of this band’s music and post-hardcore influence isn’t going anywhere.
Final Score: 8/10
Rank: 3rd (seven total albums)
- In Division
- Catch Myself Catching Myself
- Paper Lung
- A Divine Eradication
- Who Will Guard The Guardians
- Vacant Mouth
- My Deteriorating Incline
- In Completion