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Track Review

When Christian bands become former Christian bands, some fans inevitably feel betrayed and confused. That's exactly the situation we have with Underoath.

This pioneering metalcore group embraced—via growling vocals and searing guitars—a Christian perspective for its first several albums. But Underoath renounced the "Christian" label almost six years ago. In late 2012, frontman Spencer Chamberlain minced no words in an interview with the music magazine Alternative Press. He said:

"A few years ago we decided that we weren’t going to be a Christian band anymore and that made a lot of people angry, as well. … There were some members who didn’t believe that anymore. When [some of our young fans] grow up, they might feel the same way that some of our guys do. I came into a huge problem with it [Christianity] over the years, seeing how some of these kids reacted and treated each other, other Christians and non-believers. It was a very uncomfortable thing for me. The judgment there was worse than anywhere else and I didn’t like it."

In a 2018 interview with Loudwire, Chamberlain reiterated essentially the same message:

"All of us are finally in that place in our lives where the only thing we care about is inclusion for everybody—for the world. For me, exclusion is the scariest thing in the world. And I think Underoath coming back now with a new record—which none of us thought was possible—we want people to know that this is your music and you can feel however the f--- you want about it."

Now, Chamberlain's harsh profanity in that quote might come as a bit of shock given the band's background. But it seems to be a word his group is increasingly comfortable using in public … even if it's offensive to Underoath fans who got onboard when the band was still unabashedly "Christian."

A Profane Problem

Underoath hasn't released a new studio album since its 2012 separation from its Christian roots, which means that many fans may have missed the news of Underoath's philosophical shift.

Until now, that is.

"On My Teeth," the pummeling lead single from Underoath's forthcoming fifth studio album, Erase Me, features the same vulgarity mentioned above when Chamberlain sings in the opening lines: "I'm not your f---ing prey," he spits.

Many fans criticized the band (via Twitter) for its inclusion of that word, with at least one going so far as to say that using it was "evil."

Drummer and occasional singer Aaron Gillespie fired back: "If you say 'f---' people think you’re evil these days? We got waaaaaay bigger stuff to talk about folks. Waayyy bigger." In a separate tweet, he added, "Words are words. Expletives are used to make emphasis in my opinion. If curse words offend you I’m sorry, you should stay in your safe place and not venture out into the world. People hurt, people mess up, people sometimes just need to say something like 'f---' to explain that."

At the Boiling Point

The band's use of that word has generated a lot of publicity. But it's hardly the only concern I have about this seething track.

The song itself deals with a brutal betrayal. "You got the best of me/And stabbed me in the back," both Chamberlain and Gillespie sing in the chorus. The balance of the track veers erratically between accusations ("Your life is a lie"), wounded self-esteem ("And I'm not OK/I'm heading down drain") and veiled suggestions of payback ("I taste you on my teeth/You're like a heart attack/ … One day you might be hungry").

Underoath's lyrics here boil with betrayal. What they don't do is turn any kind of redemptive corner, as many of the band's songs in the past might have done.

Metal, of course, is a genre that has often articulated intense feelings of anger and alienation. What's typically set apart Christian practitioners of this aggressive style has been their desire to frame life's inevitable pains and problems in a bigger, more hopeful spiritual context—even amid screamed lyrics and pounding, punishing riffs.

That context is missing here. So despite the band's stated intent to be more inclusive and reach a broader audience these days, the actual message delivered to those listeners—at least here—has regressed to metal's lowest common denominator. Without a Christian worldview to offer perspective on that brokenness, all that remains is infected emotional wounds and festering unforgiveness.

And to me, that's even more disappointing than Underoath's use of harsh profanity to make its point.

Positive Elements

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Record Label

Fearless Records




February 22, 2018

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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