Disclaimer: This post contains language not suitable for most readers (i.e. cuss/swear words). Also, this is a rant, which you will not see me doing frequently. You have been warned!
Last week, many metalheads were surprised at the announcement of new material from the post-hardcore band, Underoath. I can speak for many of their fans and say that we were not sure what they were up to. After the band broke up in 2013, we were certain that there was no possibility that the band would ever come back, especially since Aaron Gillespie, the last original member and drummer, stepped away in 2011.
In late 2015, the band announced that they would be headlining the Self Help festival with Aaron Gillespie back on drums, but it left us to speculate whether this was a one-time performance or if the question of whether or not the band would reunite was finally solved. The band would later confirm the latter.
On February 21, 2018, the band teased the release of something new over social media by sharing a website with a countdown. The countdown ended a day later to the release of a music video to their new single, On My Teeth, along with a release date of a new album, Erase Me.
Random Fact: The first time I ever laid eyes (or I should I say ears) on the band was on their “You’re Ever So Inviting” music video on JC-TV (Does this channel still exist?). I was becoming metalhead at the same time that God began to touch my life in middle school and they were the connection to finding bands like August Burns Red, Blessthefall, MyChildren MyBride, and so on. Underoath easily became one of my favorite artists in the Christian genre and I can’t tell you how many time I would listen to their Lost in the Sound of Separation album (My favorite album of theirs).
Responding to the Criticism
Upon the release of their single, the band has received a lot of criticism towards their new sound, but mostly on the fact that the vocalist said “fuck” in the song (it occurs once), which, according to the critics, is either unnecessary, uncalled for, or simply a lack of creativity. You can bet that 90 percent of these people are Christian fans who are comparing them to their music from 10 years ago (at least that’s what it seems). I am writing this post, mainly because I am baffled by the criticism. I can’t disagree more with them from a music and Christian standpoint.
The reason as to why this criticism makes me face-palm is that this band and its members do not consider themselves “Christian” (at least not most of them). Back around the time or before their latest album, Ø Disambiguation (2010), came out, they announced, through interviews, disbanding their label of a “Christian” band. I found a clip from their documentary, Tired Violence (2015), where the guitarist, James Smith, elaborates, “As a Christian, to keep claiming that we were a Christian band was dishonest. It made more sense to me than trying to keep up a front.” In the clip of the documentary, their keyboardist, Chris Dudley says, “God has done so much through what we do and to not state that as a group was really hard.”
Now that I am looking back at these interviews and the timing of their material, Ø Disambiguation would have been a different album if they were not under Tooth & Nail due to their contract with the label. We might have heard some of these themes and language a lot sooner. This new music that they are creating is now directed towards a wider audience. They want Christians and non-Christians, alike, to listen to their art.
We are judging their actions based on our standards that not many of them hold. There’s no love for us to say that they are not right. We are not the people in their life to make that criticism.
We Grow for the Better or the worse (depending on perspective)
This song shows how they are vulnerable and honest with us and themselves. They are creating work that defines who they are as of the writing of this album. I once heard the “Christian” singer-songwriter, Derek Webb, speak a little of this part of life. He explained that he is still proud of the music he wrote in his earlier years in the industry but that he doesn’t exactly agree with some of the things he wrote about. He mentioned how it was a reminder of his continual growth. Back when they created the albums such as Define the Great Line and They’re Only Chasing Safety, they wrote according to their faith and beliefs at that time. It’s unfortunate that they were probably overwhelmed by circumstances in their life that led them to step away from their faith or question it.
I can testify on this from experience. My walk with God has changed significantly from the moment I first heard of Underoath, as well. We are influenced by what we listen to and who we are around. Our circumstances can get the better of us, too. God is continually molding us to better understand Him and the way that He works in our lives. There are times that we are stuck and fell like giving up our faith or generalities in life, but we certainly grow from them. I’m sure the members of the band have gone through much of that.
- I personally will not go deep into why they chose to use the word “fuck” in their lyrics. I think that if they use that language in their life, they have every right to use it wherever they want, whether there are consequences or not. I have no issue with it and realize that it’s language that we may hear from other bands whether they hold a Christian faith or not (i.e. POD or King’s Kaleidoscope).
- It’s a little ironic that their song is about those who are critiquing them for their choice of words. I had a quick look at the lyrics and they depict what either the band or Spencer Chamberlain, their front-man, has felt towards religion and those fans who hold the Christian faith. I am curious to hear the rest of the album when it comes out. We will be able to hopefully understand the journey that this band has been in. In that documentary clip that I mentioned above, Chamberlain, states, “A lot of the Christian people I met in this industry… were some of the most judgmental people I have ever met in my life.” It’s sad that some people were not able to love on these guys or at least better-express that love as Jesus taught us.
- Musically, I enjoyed this song. It reminded me of their latest album, Ø Disambiguation. I hear influences from Chamberlain’s side project, Sleepwave, as well. Gillespie, as always, demolished the drums!
I want to disclose that I am coming at this from the same place as anyone else that follows them online. I don’t have any specific knowledge or information that will make me think that I know more than anyone of their fans. But I don’t want to let this discussion end. Whether you agree or disagree with me, what do you guys think? I am curious to know.