When you’ve been in the game as long as Underoath, it’s vital to mix things up. 2019’s Erase Me showcased an entirely transformed Underoath, a band eager to shed their genre-defining past and build a new sound from the ground up. Ninth album Voyeurist aims to push the experimental envelope that little bit further – with the help of tech-infused breakdowns and floating soundscapes, Voyeurist showcases an Underoath eager to toy with dynamics. Ambition riles in the guts of this record, every track a balancing act of textures – a balancing act that, occasionally, tips too far into the realms of safety.
When Voyeurist hits, it bruises. Opening track Damn Excuses is glorious, a perfect encapsulation of why Underoath are so revered – tension builds, before Aaron Gillespie crashes in with a torrent of violent, blood-curdling drums. The entire track is a whirlwind, a densely layered rush of darkness.
Following track Hallelujah, however, feels like too much of a shift. The gorgeously crafted darkness is cut short – we change gears, torn up from the rich depths of hell into a realm of high screams and choir-like chanting. Moments of the track are gorgeous, and the climactic, guttural growl of “THIS IS FUCKING HELLLL!” is magnificent – however, that initial transition definitely leaves you feeling a little disheartened.
Tracks that recapture that initial sense of darkness are undoubtedly the stand-outs – Underoath truly have a skill for crafting spellbindingly evil soundscapes. Pretty Sure I’m Out Of Luck And Have No Friends, Pneumonia and (No Oasis) in particular are awe-inspiring. These tracks thrive instrumentally, so densely crafted that you almost drown in the sonic depths. Though the tracks sound different, the sensations captured are equally as hypnotic – Pretty Sure…’s tech-infused beats slowly building into a crescendo of sound, while Loathes-y (No Oasis) stays soft and one-levelled Gillespie’s vocals merging into the flow of instrumentals, the track entirely dominated by its ambient backbone. And Pneumonia – it’s gorgeous, it’s breathtaking… it’s such a TEASE TO CLOSE WITH! All these tracks highlight a magnificent talent, and one that is disappointingly not explored much more on the album.
The temptation to lean into familiar soundscapes leaves this album feeling more safe than anything – tracks like Cycle and Take A Breath are reliably Underoath, with a punch of gritty metalcore that is instantly familiar. And We’re All Gonna Die – it’s guaranteed circle pit bait, with a brutal tempo and a healthy scream-along-able chorus. It’s the kind of stuff we love to hear from Underoath – fun, heavy and sharp.
Overall, Voyeurist shines its brightest when it’s at its darkest. The classic sounding tracks pack a punch, but the more ambitious soundscaping efforts are truly in a class of their own. It would be amazing to see Underoath delve into a more ambient realm for future work, as they’ve clearly got a knack for it. But for now – catch you in the pit for We’re All Gonna Die.
Voyeurist is out today.