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Lost in the Sound of Separation

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
Lost in the Sound of Separation
Sounds like … the screamo-metalcore of bands like Emery, Blindside, Demon Hunter, Haste the Day, Norman Jean, and ThriceAt a glance … though not as melodic or experimental as some suggest, Lost in the Sound of Separation still demonstrates why Underoath ranks among the upper echelon of metalcoreTrack Listing Breathing in a New Mentality Anyone Can Dig a Hole, but It Take a Real Man to Call It Home A Fault Line a Fault of Mine Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed We Are the Involuntary The Created Void Coming Down Is Calming Down Desperate Times, Desperate Measures Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear Desolate Earth :: The End Is Here

With their release of Define the Great Line in 2006, Underoath became the biggest band out of Tooth & Nail Records since P.O.D., thanks to strong album sales, widespread critical acclaim, and a surging fan base overflowing from the Christian market into the mainstream. Yet shortly after, to everyone's surprise, the band pulled out from the Vans Warped Tour. Some fans grew increasingly uncertain of Underoath's future the following year when drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie released his side project as The Almost.

Breathe easy, Underoath isn't finished yet. They took time off to solidify their friendships within the band, strained by the rigors of touring. They're seemingly stronger for it, growing more collaborative in their creative process. This new season is reflected through their fourth studio project, Lost in the Sound of Separation, which, though not necessarily their best work, sure comes close—and it's almost certainly their most thought-out.

Reteaming with Define producers Adam Ditkiewicz (Killswitch Engage) and Matt Goldman (Copeland, The Chariot), Underoath sounds as polished as metalcore can be. The primary appeal of this Tampa, Florida sextet is that, unlike most hardcore metal bands, there's more to them than decibel level. There's a lot of musicianship underlying the vocals, much of it bombastic, though some of it intricate and experimental.

That said, this is not a record for those who can't find the musicality in metalcore. Nor is it as melodic as it's made out to be—unless by melody you mean occasional singing by Spencer Chamberlain and Gillespie, but it's never as catchy as, say, P.O.D. or Demon Hunter. And while some parts are experimental, it's not much different or groundbreaking from past projects by Underoath and other metalcore bands. Lost in the Sound of Separation is about as good as Define or 2004's They're Only Chasing Safety, but it never quite surpasses them with anything that hasn't been heard before.

What does elevate Lost above its predecessors is thematic scope. This 43-minute album represents a soul-searching journey of change that takes the listener to hell and back.

The opening thrash of "Breathing in a New Mentality" revolves around the chanted scream, "I'm the desperate and you're the Savior," and when you grasp the words, it's very much a modern psalm pleading for deliverance: "Clean me up, show me how to live/Tear me down, let me start again." Carrying on with the wordy titles, "Anyone Can Dig a Hole…" expresses fear and uncertainty that faith and life are meaningless, yet concludes, "I am the one who's wrong/God forgive me!" And then "A Fault Line a Fault of Mine" plays like a confession, admitting a need for change.

Intense as those songs are, they're not as dark as what follows. "Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near" allows fears and pessimism to run rampant with a bleak vision of doom … but representing the world, or inner turmoil? Most likely the latter, as suggested by the similarly hellish "The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed": "This is how it seems to me/I've drowned myself in self-regret/This is how I wanna be/This can't be how I wanna be." The album's pivotal point seems to come with "We Are the Involuntary" as Gillespie sings about the hope for something more: "Hands in the air and love at our sides/There's gotta be something bigger with the beating in our throats and the tremble in our grip/This can't be it … oh Lord have mercy on us all."

From there the songs turn more hopeful and melodic, as if pointing to light in the darkness. "The Created Void" expresses an understanding of separation caused by sin: "It's all in the way I say what I don't mean, and mean what I don't/I need to speak of you and what is real." Rejecting sin is a lifelong struggle, as heard in "Coming Down Is Calming Down," but we're confronted with a total breakdown of self in "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures." After that, "Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear" offers striking contrast—almost floating and tranquil, though still punctuated by drums, as a chorus chants, "Good God, can you still get us home?" Concluding the album is "Desolate Earth :: The End Is Here," a mostly instrumental track driven by drum machine, keyboards, and cello, as if surveying the damage of a great holocaust, but then finding something has survived: "You said there was nothing left down here/Well, I roamed around the wasteland/And I swear I found something/I found hope, I found God/I found the dreams of the believers."

The best songs on Lost in the Sound of Separation come in the latter half of the album. They're more melodic and hopeful, yet they also resonate more deeply because of the darkness that precedes them. As such, both halves of the album need each other in the album's depiction of "the end of the world"—not the planet, in this case, but rather the end of sinful nature. Not everyone gets the "noise" of hardcore rock, but it's a genre that lends itself to passionate outbursts. In the context of Christian rock, you sometimes need to let out a good cry or scream before letting God in, and it's in this way that Underoath's latest is both therapeutic and meaningful.

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