With all the excitement surrounding the pending new release from Solid State Records favorites Underoath, the band felt like they needed to give fans a little something to tide them over. The majority of the time when this is done, the artist releases a b-sides/remix compilation, or even an EP. Underoath, however, is going a different route, offering up a live CD/DVD, titled Survive, Kaleidoscope. As far as the audio portion goes, one of the other options might have been a better idea.
I'll start with the positives. It's Underoath - playing Underoath songs. They are one of the best bands in their respective genre today, Christian or mainstream. The instruments are mastered, and Spencer Chamberlain's passionate vocals are enormous and powerful. The lyrics are smartly written, the music engages you and hits you at full force, and the sound quality is excellent for a live album. Of course, they don't appeal to everyone, given the harshness of the music and vocals, but it can't be denied that they are certainly one of the top artists right now, and most likely for as long as they make any new music.
On to the negatives. As sad as it is to say, Survive, Kaleidoscope, for the most part, feels like nothing more than a compilation of demo tracks, mainly due to the fact that audio quality for a live record is never as good as with a studio record. The only thing that kept me from being convinced that it wasn't a bunch of demos was the sound of the audience cheering in between songs, which leads to the next problem. The sound of the audience in between songs is the only sound you hear between songs. A good live album captures the experience of the show as much as possible with just audio. A big part of what made Five Iron Frenzy's The End Is Here so good was hearing the guys talk and joke with the crowd. There are a couple instances where Underoath involves the crowd, but it's only when they pause and have the crowd sing a line or two of a song, and when drummer Aaron Gillespie yells out the name of the place they're at in an attempt to get the audience more pumped. Or should I say audiences? In "It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door," during the near-silence before the first "My knuckles have turned to white," Aaron yells out "Dallas, Texas!" But later, they address the crowd as Omaha, and finally, in the very last track, they yell "New Jersey!" It threw me off, and I had to go back and make sure that I heard correctly. If a band is going to release a live album, why piece it together from different shows? Granted, the flow from song to song doesn't give that away, but to get as much out of it as you can, it would probably help a lot to have the same show from start to finish.
Survive, Kaleidoscope is pretty much redeemed by the DVD. In fact, it could've been just fine as only a DVD release. All the songs follow the same track list as the disc, but thankfully, it's all from one concert. Underoath has a great stage presence and lots of crowd interaction, so it's very pleasing to see an entire show uninterrupted. The show begins with Define The Great Line's instrumental "Salmarnir" playing in the darkened venue, acting as the soundtrack to a film about a young girl playing on the wall behind the stage. The band makes their way to their respective instruments on stage, the film fades into black, and they blast into "Returning Empty Handed," and then without fooling around, roll right into "In Regards To Myself." Next, much to my relief, Spencer takes a minute to talk to the crowd. Just a little introduction, but there's more of it later on during the show as well. At one point, Spencer even brings up the band's personal faiths in Jesus, telling the crowd that God is who they stand for, and that they're not trying to be preachy or holier-than-thou, just that He has helped them get through life and that they believe He can do the same for them. A breath of fresh air, especially hearing it from a band that is now very big in the mainstream hardcore rock genre.
After the last song of the set, the band exits the stage. As with every concert I've ever been to, the crowd isn't satisfied, and "One more song! One more song!" is all anyone can hear. Not letting their fans down, the guys come back out and play two more songs, the first of which being "Moving For The Sake of Motion." It's incredible, because when Aaron Gillespie kicks off the song with a quick drum fill, and the guitars and keys jump in, it's almost like they started a brand new set altogether. The adrenaline has still got them pumped up enough to give it their all, and give the crowd their money's worth. The night is ended with a fan-favorite, the final of the three songs chosen from They're Only Chasing Safety, "A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black and White."
All of the songs from Define The Great Line are played, and only three from They're Only Chasing Safety. Not a huge disappointment, but a little bit of a surprise, as Safety is the more accessible of the two. But the fans didn't really seem to mind, and it ended up being a good show still.
Survive, Kaleidoscope is really more of a release for hardcore Underoath fans, and collectors, but it's also good for those who want to see what the band is like live. And for those who were at that particular show in Philadelphia, the DVD will serve as a reminder of the great night they most likely experienced. If it wasn't for the DVD portion, this would've been a disappointment. It's what makes Kaleidoscope what it is. But even WITH the DVD, I would still recommend waiting for Underoath's new studio release in September if you could only afford one.- Review date: 05/25/08, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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