LIVE: Underoath @ Bristol o2 Academy, 11/05/2017

Underoath’s 2013 dissolution was saddening, but didn’t come as a huge shock. Their last record was their first without drummer and vocalist Aaron Gillespie, whose duets with Spencer Chamberlain’s pained bellows formed the basis of many of their greatest songs. Not long after, though, the band were back, with Gillespie, with a tour billing to get stir old fans into a frenzy – 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and 2006’s Define the Great Line, back-to-back each night.

As they burst into ‘Young and Aspiring’, the mix sounds immediately off for a while, but it doesn’t even matter: the band are drowned out by a crowd who sound like they’ve been waiting for this for a long time. When the sound is sorted out the band are on fine form; Chamberlain and Gillespie’s vocals sound especially great. Chasing Safety, after the first few tracks, however, begins to wear a little thin. The album’s poppy-screamo sound hasn’t aged all too well, and the second half feels largely like filler.

From the panicked, disorientating rush of ‘In Regards to Myself’s opening riff, things begin to pick up again. Define The Great Line hits a lot harder, both tonight and on record, working the catchy hooks with a darker and more angular edge into songs that emphasised their crescendoing structures and dramatic pacing more than those on Chasing Safety. It’s a more balanced half of the show as a result – the frenetic hardcore tracks bleeding into the ambient soundscape of ‘Salmanir’ and the post-metal centerpiece ‘Casting Such a Thin Shadow’.

Although the setlist could be dismissed as a nostalgia trip, it’s also an interesting showcase of the band’s most important progression – following Define, the band would experiment further, crafting their magnum opus in 2008’s Lost in the Sound of Separation. If tonight fails in any regard it’s that Underoath went on to make much better music than what dominates the first half of the set, but it nonetheless announces their reunion with thunderous impact.

Words by Joe Gilbertson

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