The Great Line Redefined
Posted October 27, 2008
I was in Abilene Texas, in Lifeway, on September 2nd. I wasn't having very good luck in their music department, it was overtly obvious that I was no longer in Houston. Here we have a nice diverse range of genres in our Lifeways. But in Abilene they don't have music sections, they have Third Day sections. Nothing against Third Day, but I think that an entire two shelves devoted to them is a little much. I had almost given up when I caught Lost in the Sound of Separation out of the corner of my eye. I almost danced with joy! I immediately snatched it up and bought it.
Since my parents are by no means Underoath fans I had an agonizing wait until that night, when I had free time and my old trusty walkman that's been with me since before iPods were invented. My first impression was fairly good. I could hear the heavy Define the Great Line influence, as well as some They're Only Chasing Safety vibe. But in this melting pot of Underoath soup, there was a new sound emerging. A style unique to A Sound of Separation. At first it was not so pronounced, but it grew as the album did and turned this album into something special.
Let's take a look at the lyrics and their meanings for a moment. "We Are the Involuntary" is the only song in which the phase "Lost in the Sound of Separation". It really sums up the entire theme of the album. That man has lost his way and needs to end his separation from God. On several songs the theme expands to frustration with yourself for contently falling short, and the need in your life for God's redemption. Until I read the lyrics thoroughly I had always thought of Underoath as one of those bands that had a stereo typical Christian song here and there and for the most part sang about girls, cell phones and batman rides (sorry Reliant K fans). But every single song on the album, even if they are about life issues more then they are conventional "Awesome God" type lyrics, cannot be fully understood unless they are viewed from a Christian standpoint. I'm really impressed, I haven't seen very many other Christian bands with such honest and deep lyrics.
The album begins with the song "Breathing in a New Mentality". Which it's overtly Christian lyrics and pulsing drum part it is an all around solid song. It bears an unmistakable resemblance to the songs found on the Florida sextet's last release, "Define the Great Line". Only "Breathing in a New Mentality" has a more refined and mature flavor. I try not to toss around the words "brutal" and "ear splitting" too often. This is still music, no matter how "metalcore" it may be, not a some piece of construction equipment. Overall this was a slight downer of a first track, seeing as it doesn't offer up anything particularly new for Underoath. If you've heard "Define", you've heard this song.
With the second track things start to look a little brighter. "Anyone Can Dig a Hole, but it Takes a Real Man to Call it Home" tackles the subject of overcoming yourself and asking forgiveness from God. It's a very interesting song to hear, in a good way, and even though it still sounds like something from "Define" or "They're Only Chasing Safety" a little something new shines through as well.
"A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine" keeps the momentum going and offers up some attention getting musical dynamics.
In the next song "Emergency Broadcast :: The End is Near" Underoath finally enters uncharted territory. It's experimental sound is something that sounds very much like what Underoath fans have come to know and love, yet it doesn't sound like a song you've already heard them sing. It's not as hard or fast paces as the previous tracks, but if every track on the album was heavy and fast it would be a very boring experience. It's bleak lyrics and fuzz-injected instruments will have you headbanging in no time. As a drummer I took note of the beyond amazing drum part in "The End is Near". Underoath is known for it's talented drummer/singer, Aaron Gillespie, but this is just too good to be true. I would go as far to say he's the best thing since John Bonham. That's high praise for any drummer.
"The Only Survivor was Miraculously Unharmed" (don't you love Underoath's song titles?) continues the self-persecution, need for a savior theme and again makes musical progress. It sounds like a new Underoath song, not a leftover from "Define".
"We Are the Involuntary", as I've mentioned before is sort of the title track of the record. It speaks of fallen man's desire to find God and pleads with God to have mercy on the fallen man, who is usually described in first person throughout the album. This track has to be one of my favorites, and it continues to forge ahead as Underoath proves they still have plenty of originality and creativity left in them.
"The Created Void" is a creative piece which talks about the world's inability to understand us as Christians and Christians desire to share God with a world living in false reality. It's slowing pace and singing offers us an island in a sea of screams midway through the album. It's another one of my favorites.
In "Coming Down is Calming Down" the pace picks up again and the momentum carries on and keeps your attention.
Again, Underoath's sound leans in the "Define the Great Line" direction with "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures". It's still a very good song, but I think they could have pushed the envelope a little more. It's drum driven and just as heavy as anything you'll find by Underoath and it certainly makes for an interesting (again, interesting is a good thing in my reviews) listen for any new-school Underoath fan.
As the final climax, "Desperate Times, Desperate Measures" ends, things begin to wind down with "Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear". The lyrics are perhaps the most Christian of all the lyrics on the album. Aaron sings, "Good God if Your song leaves our lips / If Your work leaves our hands / Then we will be wanderers and vagabonds" and the song finally builds into passionate screams in the end. The song, laden with melodic singing, sounds almost as if it could have been on "They're Only Chasing Safety", but luckily it still offers up something new that Underoath fans will dub the "Lost in the Sound of Separation" sound.
The last track, "Desolate Earth :: The End is Here" finally slows the record to a halt in a very well done fashion. The lyrics are not as dark as the title, and they are only introduced in the last moments of the song. "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". As a standalone track I don't think that it would do very well, but it is a perfect end to wrap up the entire album.
Overall while some songs were heavier then what was found on "Define the Great Line", the album as a whole was not. However the greatness of an album is not determined by how heavy it is, or whether or not it's more "brutal" than anything previously released by the band. It comes down to creativity, quality and entertainment. While guitar feedback and howling screams certainly add to the experience, that's not what it's all about.
In this age were the "shuffle" setting reigns on every teenagers iPod it's refreshing to hear an album that is as strong when you play through it in the traditional vinyl fashion as when you tear it apart and listen to a single song at a time. I'd have to say this is not only the best Underoath album of all time, but the best album of 2008. It just gets better with every listen, and as with a Maylene and the Sons of Disaster album, you just can't bring yourself to hit shuffle!
I give it four and a half out of five stars, near perfection. If they had added more infectious "They're Only Chasing Safety" style sing along melodies, added a guitar solo here and there and branched out a little more from "Define the Great Line" I would have given it five stars. I know Underoath is more drum driven than guitar driven, but I would have loved to hear a guitar solo.
I'd highly recommend "Lost in the Sound of Separation" to fans of hardcore, metalcore, August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada, Haste the Day, Norma Jean, Demon Hunter, Mortal Treason, Spoken and The Showdown.
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