By far the most anticipated release of the year, Define the Great Line is Underoath's much talked about follow up to They're Only Chasing Safety a record that was quite possibly Tooth & Nail's biggest breakout release in the history of the label. So the pressure was on for the Northern Florida boys. They built a base a few years back with the hardcore carnage of The Changing of Times, but blew up when they went screamo on They're Only Chasing Safety. Can they possibly bridge the gap and bring fans of the former release up to speed without excluding those that fell in love with Underoath after hearing their latter effort?
The answer, clearly, is yes. Underoath has crafted a record that somehow still contains the accessibility of their last effort, but kicks everything up a notch. Spencer Chamberlain not only screams on Define the Great Line, he roars. Aaron Gillespie's drums are more intense and urgent, yet still precise. And everything in between has been stepped up. It is a sound that was only hinted at on They're Only Chasing Safety ("I Don't Feel Very Receptive Today," in particular). Rarely does it slow up, either. And when it seems to be losing steam, it is only a sign that another explosion is pending. This one allows for little to no breathing room.
Underoath's message has changed little since the last time we heard from them. There is a lot of discussion of our depravity, and a need for redemption. Differing from their last release, however, is the frequency at which God is addressed by name, though all are in exclamations of desperation. Most tracks express a lot of pain, weariness, and frustration, but not without the awareness that things need to change. And God's presence is never factored out of the equation no matter how rough things get. He is a constant source of redemption and is the only way to "wake up" (A metaphor repeated constantly on the album).
Whether or not Define the Great Line will be Underoath's defining effort is up to history to decide, and it is too soon to say. Emotional attachments to They're Only Chasing Safety aside, Underoath's latest is a solid piece of work that holds its own against previous records. Without a second's hesitation, the hardcore album of the year thus far is Define the Great Line, and I'd like to see another album challenge it.- Review date: 06/20/06, written by Josh Taylor
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