When Underoath announced in 2015 that the band was getting back together with original drummer Aaron Gillespie in the fold, it was announced as a “rebirth,” as the band knocked out a couple of reunion shows over the following years. It’s an appropriate way to describe Underoath’s return since it’s been eight years since Ø (Disambiguation) and nearly a decade since the band’s last release with Gillespie in the fold. And obviously so much has changed within the metal scene and music community as a whole during the band’s hiatus; Underoath found themselves at a crossroads between pleasing older fans and drawing in a generation of listeners that may have never heard Define The Great Line. So while a level of musical reincarnation was expected, the extent of that remained unknown. Recorded in 2017 with producer Matt Squire, the band looked to deconstruct the idea of Underoath while incorporating all the moments of anxiety , betrayal, and struggles of the past decade. And ultimately these sessions resulted with Erase Me – the most polarizing heavy rock album of 2018.
By approaching the recording of Erase Me without the pressure of creating an “Underoath” record, the Florida sextet was able to construct their most versatile and richly textured album yet, fearlessly embracing their future instead of hanging onto the cries of the past. The chemistry between Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain is unreal, as if ten years hadn’t passed since the two last recorded something together. The explosive energy is still there on tracks like opener “It Has To Start Somewhere” and first single “On My Teeth.” Both tracks serve as a reminder on how ferocious Gillespie can be behind the kit, while Chamberlain’s powerful voice rips through both tracks.
Sandwiched between those tracks are perhaps the two most divisive tracks in the band’s discography – the synth-heavy and arena rock-ready “Rapture” and “Wake Me.” One of the most notable things on Erase Me is how much of Christopher Dudley’s fingerprints are all over this record. While these two tracks don’t do much for me (the weakest moments on the record by far – I’d preferred the b-sides “Loneliness” and “Another Life” taking the place of these), Dudley’s added presence throughout the album elevates Erase Me. His programming on the Kid A-tinged industrial track “No Frame” is superb, while his synth and key flourishes add some much needed texture to the soft-loud dynamics heard on tracks like “Bloodlust” and “ihateit.”
While the first half of Erase Me has the band exploring new soundscapes, the second half features Underoath firing on all cylinders. The sweeping “Sink With Me” is dripping with Deftones-esque heaviness, while the urgent “Hold Your Breath” bursts with one of the album’s most contagious choruses. The frenetic “In Motion” recounts memorable call-and-return vocals from Chamberlain and Gillespie, culminating in an unforgettable breakdown. Album closer “I Gave Up” is a chilling culmination of Erase Me, a methodically paced track that shrewdly balances all the different elements introduced throughout the record, slowly picking up steam until guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith combine to unleash one last staggering breakdown reminiscent of Disambiguation’s very best.
Thematically, Erase Me showcases the struggle between Chamberlain’s past demons and the religious community, with the band’s vocalist leaving both behind. It’s on the aforementioned “ihateit” that the album’s thesis emerges; Chamberlain screams “God erase me/I don’t deserve the life you give/God I can’t change at all” during the track’s scorching bridge. The conflict continues on “It Has To Start Somewhere” (Don’t understand it/Don’t need your grace/You were never listening/To the words I said) and “In Motion” (You can’t save my life/These events are already in motion/So don’t waste my time), while Chamberlain seems to find some balance on “No Frame” (Well I belong right here/Where the light runs from me/I don’t believe in fear/’Cause this place can’t haunt me). It’s a gripping journey through Chamberlain’s psyche; Erase Me brings out his most personal and vulnerable emotions, something any listener can relate to.
Chamberlain told Revolver earlier this spring that “One of the best things we ever did was when we agreed not to be a Christian band anymore. And when we made this record the [phrase], ‘that’s not Underoath enough,’ was not allowed to be said because those two things fucking ruined our band in the first place.” It’s the smartest way the band could have approached writing a new album instead of trying to fit in everything they missed over the last eight years and chasing safety with something redundant from the band’s earlier discography. Not every moment works throughout the record and there are a few growing pains, but this record is a triumphant return from one of the most influential bands the genre has ever witnessed. Erase Me is a thrilling accomplishment that features Underoath stepping boldly into their next chapter with their most cohesive and diverse work ever.