As Underoath’s comeback tour finishes up in a couple of weeks, I wanted to weigh in on the experience of seeing these guys again after a 3.5 year breakup. For those of us familiar with the band’s history, you know it was a ‘Breakup’ in the most serious way. The band’s departure in 2013 became a coming of age moment as intense as Peter Pan getting kicked out of Neverland for many of the twenty-somethings in the scene. After nearly of decade of touring and creating amazing genre bending heavy music, the boys had grown into men with different ideals, families and long term career goals. The pain of leaving behind their joys of youth was real. They decided to create one final exit tour for the fans in 2012, which became an emotional roller coaster for all involved and was further exacerbated by the documentary filming that sought to capture their last moments together as a band.
As a fan going through similar growing pains I was beside myself when they first announced retiring, a metalcore scene without Underoath leading the way? WTF did that even look like? Every move made with each metal album was new and different from what everybody else was doing at that time. I think a lot of us wondered if the metalcore genre was over altogether.
Here are some old posts from my Facebook that capture so much of our journey as fans of this band.
“One time in college, I was sitting in the local Kzoo (Kalamazoo, MI) beauty salon raving about some crap band I had just seen with my sister at the Taking Back Sunday show in Ypsi. ‘They were the worst! I exclaimed, I think they called themselves Underoath or something – terrible set man, they looked so confused on stage…’ Suddenly, a girl who’d been sitting under the dryer jumps up and says, ‘Wait a minute, are you talking about UNDEROATH?! Like Spencer and the guys? I LUV that band! They’re awesome!’ What ensued next was a 45mintue debate on metalcore and what elements stay true to the style…we must have been 19/20yrs old at the time…” Mar. 2012
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Underoath, I was not impressed, I thought they sounded terrible, unfocused and disconnected. But they kept practicing and performing and each time I saw them perform they were better and better. Still hard to believe they’re gone after 10 years of great work.” Jan. 2013
Seeing them back on stage at NYC’s Playstation Theater this month was like falling in love with them all over again. There were so many moments where I found myself shouting from the barricade, “Yes! Yes! Exactly!” to various riffs and vocal shifts that touch upon so many metal styles of the past towards creating novel moments. Back in the day they were the one band that drove my parents crazy when I blasted metal from my bedroom- moreso than System of A Down.
The Rebirth tour focused wisely on performing in full the albums, Define the Great Line (2006) and They’re Only Chasing Safety (2004). You can call Underoath metalcore, mathcore, post-hardcore, I don’t care – one thing I do know is they’re original. There’s an authentic style about them that so many bands have attempted to mimic but never can and its that ability that has inspired so many fans to hold them with high regard.
The album that really solidified my interest in them was their later work on Lost In The Sound of Separation. In songs like Emergency Broadcast: The End Is Near, you can feel them landing on musical narratives as if they’d surprised themselves. They had in fact landed someplace amazing and weren’t lost at all.
The fans of Underoath are a great snapshot of the larger metalcore scene too. They’ve always had a vast multicultural reach, inclusive of the most punks of color boys and girls I’ve seen at an NYC show in a long while. At the show I found myself standing among 7 other Black girls in a space that is often known locally as housing the caucasian hardcore kids from suburbia, Long Island.*Sidenote: I wore my From Autumn to Ashes band shirt to the show and as I walked into the venue there happened to be a song from The Fiction We Live blasting during soundcheck, with people singing along :P* Post side note: From Autumn To Ashes are a post hardcore Long island band…
At the end of the day the boys have moved on to other projects, with Spencer touring with Sleepwave and Aaron producing solo work, so the likelihood of them fully coming back and making new work as Underoath is slim. I think it would be great to see them transition to bi-annual tours or fewer similar to cult favs like Deftones or System of A Down, without the finite declaration that they’re over. A talented band with an established legacy doesn’t have to pressure themselves about making new music every 18 months. It’ll be nice to see if Underoath’s fan-base could inspire them to see themselves this way towards hitting the stage every once in awhile.
I’ll close this out with a final rambling I found on my Facebook from 2015:
“It’s a Spencer kind of night, where only the roar of the band and the chants of the crowd will do. Bodies clamoring towards the stage, arms twisted, weaving through the sound while limbs float above our voices-drowning out our dreams. Aaron’s on the drums shouting, “You’re a part of something! This matters, this moment matters for all of us!” July 2015.
Underoath Rebirth Tour, 2016 Photo by Blkgrlswurld Zine