I believe it was around this time last year that Underoath announced that they would be disbanding. If so then this would be an appropriate time to write up a little throwback piece highlighting their early material. When I refer to early material I am not referring to albums such as “They’re Only Chasing Safety” or “Define the Great Line”. As good as those albums are, and even though they may be viewed as classics to some, they are still relatively recent albums compared to the entire discography of Underoath. No, the albums truly worthy of the title of being classic are their first three: “Act of Depression”, “Cries of the Past”, and “The Changing of Times”. These three albums featured stylistic sounds that were vastly different from the rest of Underoath’s discography, and are a testament to how numerous line-up changes can drastically alter the sound of a band.
For those of you who don’t know, these albums featured Dallas Taylor (Maylene and the Sons of Disaster) on vocals instead of Spencer Chamberlain. What Dallas brought to the band was a vocal style similar to that used in a lot of grindcore music, a strong emphasis on short high pitched screams, and intermixed with spoken word sections that almost boarder on reciting poetry (listen to “Alone in December”). His lyrics were very dark and emotional, with themes ranging from experiencing chronic depression to dealing with the death of loved ones. Guitarists Corey Steger and Octavio Fernandez had a significant impact on the style of these albums as well. In particular, “Act of Depression” and “Cries of the Past” had a strong death metal influence in the riffs. It was noticeable to a degree in “The Changing of Times”, but as soon as Octavio left, all traces of death metal soon disappeared.
Their first album “Act of Depression” was more or less a cross between grindcore and death metal. The sound was fairly under-produced, raw, and chaotic in nature. Unlike most grindcore though, the songs ranged from about 5 to 10 minutes in length. Blast-beats were also used less frequently, but when used were appropriately placed within the songs and always added an extra layer of aggressiveness.
Their second album, “Cries of the Past”, saw a change in the sound with the introduction of Chris Dudley on keyboards. Chris used keys in a way that added a level of dark atmosphere to each song, propelling this album into symphonic death metal territory. Both of these albums were originally released on Takehold Records making it difficult to find copies; but recently they were re-released through Solid State Records and are now easily accessible for purchase.
Their third album and debut on Solid State Records was “The Changing of Times”. I typically refer to this album as the “changing of sounds” because it demonstrated the biggest stylistic shift in their career. For this album, Underoath adopted more pop elements such as shorter song lengths and catchy keyboard/synthesizer moments. “The Changing of Times” also showcased drummer Aaron Gillespie’s influential clean vocals for the first time. After Steger was replaced by Tim McTague, many of the death metal riffs were cast aside in favor of a more punk oriented riffing style.
With these sensible changes, it was only natural to see Underoath break into the mainstream after this release, and this fate was solidified by their first music video for the song “When the Sun Sleeps”. Underoath went on to be a popular and very influential band in the metal and hard rock scene, and stayed strong until their official disbandment in 2013.