Old Underoath vs. New Underoath. The debate rages on even as this highly polarizing band has reached new heights of popularity. For the uninitiated, preceding the release of its most recent album They're Only Chasing Safety, this band underwent an extreme overhaul, losing both its lead vocalist and primary guitarist (Dallas Taylor and Octavio Fernandez respectively), leading to a drastic change in style. Although the band has emerged victorious with the success of its new disc, it did not come without the wrath of earlier fans who screamed sellout over their newfound popularity. This concern over their new streamlined sound was not unwarranted, as the band ditched its formerly metal leanings for the decidedly friendly confines of screamo.
So, what's all this hype and debate all about? For those fans familiar with the old incarnation of Underoath, the difference is easy to see. This band was simply one of the best metal bands of its time. One listen to this album will easily prove that. Cries Of The Past opens with "The Last," one of the greatest metal songs I have ever heard. Boasting no fewer than 7(!!) mind-blowing riffs within its 7 minutes, "The Last" is nothing if not epic. Despite being one of the shortest songs on the album, Underoath has shown with its opener that it can toss off inspired metal riffs, while bludgeoning its listeners into submission, seemingly at will. The approach continues into the rest of the album, at times trading awesome riffs with acoustic interludes and haunting keyboard passages.
Underoath's music is all about contrast and extremes. Riffs switch gears at the drop of a dime, while Chris Dudley's keyboard acts as a refreshing counterpoint for the near-constant riffing - sometimes playing subtle patterns over the dueling guitars, while at other times offering a brief respite from the chaos, coming to the forefront just enough times to give the listener a breath of fresh air before letting the guitars crash back in to sweep them away. This all might seem like madness at first listen, but the band's musicianship remains focused and tight throughout each song, so that the music never threatens to overtake even the uninitiated listener. Dallas Taylor especially is at the top of his game, easily switching from a menacing death-metal growl to a full-on throat-shredding scream. It's no wonder that his vocal approach is one of the most sorely missed elements of the band today.
So, back to the debate. Which is better? Old Underoath or New Underoath? Although I was introduced to the band in its current incarnation, I am without a doubt a bigger "Old Underoath" fan. Although They're Only Chasing Safety was a fine accomplishment in its own right (and miles ahead of any other screamo disc out there), it simply cannot compare to the sheer musicianship and brilliant riff-writing on Cries Of The Past. Those who are interested in this band's brilliant (but short-lived) previous incarnation would do well to revisit the classic metal epics on this album. Along with The Changing Of Times, Cries Of The Past stands as this band's crowning creative achievement - one that they will be hard-pressed to top.- Review date: 2/5/06, written by Sherwin Frias
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