Erase Me

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On their first album of original material since 2010's Ø, Florida post-hardcore outfit Underøath cleared the slate with a different sound and outlook. Produced by Matt Squire (Panic! At the Disco, the Used), Erase Me features plenty of changes that may prove especially divisive for longtime fans. For starters, Underøath shed their "Christian" label, freeing them from that associated baggage (even at the risk of alienating the fellow faithful). They're also using profanity. While God isn't entirely absent on Erase Me -- there's plenty of related disillusionment and frustration -- that faith-focus is set to the side. In addition to the less-overt religious bent, the band have also smoothed out their sound. There's more singing and less blood-curdling bellowing. Past ferocity and darkness have given way to (relatively) polished sheen and focus. This is not so much a completely unrecognizable band as it is a changed one. Like similar evolutions from genre-mates like Bring Me the Horizon, Asking Alexandria, the Devil Wears Prada, and Of Mice & Men, Underøath still have teeth; the bites are just less bloody and jagged. "It Has to Start Somewhere" kicks the album off with an explosive burst of violent but controlled fury before veering headlong into synth programming and an arena-sized chorus on "Rapture." Unapologetic, this is the first taste of the rebooted version of Underøath. As if sensing the fan grumbles, they whip back into shape on "On My Teeth," a towering highlight that features the best synthesis of old and new Underøath. It's a brutal, unrelenting powerhouse. They maintain a similar balance over the course of the album. There are more restrained numbers -- some of the softest Underoath tracks to date -- like the epic "Wake Me," the yearning "ihateit," and the urgent call-for-help "No Frame." For the old-school fans, Underoath oblige with "In Motion," the closest they come to their early-aughts days. Otherwise, perfectly serviceable standouts like the propulsive "Sink with You" and the near-industrial "Hold Your Breath" are pit-ready tornadoes that should ease the fears that Underøath have lost their edge. Much like their Dallas Spencer-era sound changed with the arrival of Spencer Chamberlain -- which then morphed once again over their mid-era progression -- Erase Me can be considered yet another radical shift in the band's lifetime of variation, a risk that pays off with an open mind and open ears.

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