February 8, 2022 Underoath – Voyeurist (Album Review)
They say that life is what you make of it. In 2022, one of its most volatile components is technology, particularly social media; an engine driving the pursuit of unattainable fantasies inspired by contagious falsities and facades. But this Insta-fame and Twitch-lebrity game also opens a window onto what it means to be authentic in our modern times. For music lovers who continue to question their own truth while living in a surreality, there are thankfully still bands like Underoath who are willing to autopsy the simulation through their carefully conceptualized music. Such is the case on Voyeurist, the band’s ninth full-length, which arrived on January 14, 2022, thanks to Fearless Records.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that throughout their two decade-plus career, the Florida band has worn many hats. Originally a Christian Metalcore offering, now something much more, they began to earn a name for themselves with their 1999 debut, Act of Depression, before undergoing a series of line-up changes as they delivered six additional full-lengths—including 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation)—over their first decade.
Continuously evolving their sound throughout the years, the sextet would eventually find themselves nominated for two Grammy Awards (in 2007 and 2010, respectively). And yet, their success was not without strife: internal struggles and addiction weighed heavily, as did the need to make peace with their deeply ingrained religious faith and a growing unease at the blind capitulation that these beliefs demand. By 2013, it was all a bit too much and the group played a farewell tour before signing off on Rock-n-Roll.
But that is all, as they say, history. Back with the follow-up to their massive comeback, 2018’s Erase Me, Underoath—Vocalist Spencer Chamberlain, Vocalist/Drummer Aaron Gillespie, Guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith, Bassist Grant Brandell, and Keyboardist Christopher Dudley—are hellbent on providing listeners with a visceral experience. With the help of Engineer JJ Revell (of The Almost), the group set themselves up to unleash unbridled creativity on the 10-song Voyeurist.
As they began self-producing, they turned their pen-shaped scalpels toward a series of interrelated topics, all influenced by the fact that everything around us is part truth and part fiction. A graphic dissection of the manipulation in which we live, Voyeurist wastes no time in following in the footsteps of its forebear, opening with an explosive banger. A brutal look at conviction, “Damn Excuses” is a multi-layered introduction that sets the tone for a record that will unpack issues including wrestling with faith, battling episodes of gut-wrenching shame, and finding authenticity in an inauthentic world. There is, of course, an underlying sense of hope—that through sincerity, self-accountability, and communion with like-minded individuals, anything is survivable.
They approach this wide-ranging concept through varying lenses, from the ironically-titled eargasm “Hallelujah” to the atmospheric “Numb,” where they fear growing apathetic in a world that is just too much. And as they joyfully explore a million soundscapes across these 10 songs, you can absolutely count on plenty of bangers. Tracks like “We’re All Gonna Die,” a delicious middle finger to the disingenuousness that often comes with those who proudly flaunt their halos. Or “Cycle,” an ouroboros of pain. Here, they bring Ghostemane on board to paint an additional layer of Stygian night across their apocalyptic wasteland of the mind. It is an oubliette of angst that is tempered by the frustration of “(No Oasis),” a non-interlude that aims to introduce a transitional mood, and one that reflects back to the (potential) death bed confession of “I’m Pretty Sure I’m Out of Luck and Have No Friends.”
If you’re getting the gist that Voyeurist is not a collection of rainbow-dyed cotton candy then you’re paying attention! However, as previously mentioned, it does have moments that serve as a counterweight to the existential brick lying on the listener’s chest. Tracks like “Thorn,” a glimmer of self-awareness, and “Take A Breath,” which picks up where the former leaves off, sonically speaking. Lyrically, it’s yet another deep dive into the masks that so many wear; a spotlight placed on what it means to suffocate at the hands of your self-imposed delusions.
Ultimately, it’s no real shock that they end their daring endeavor with a seven-minute grand finale entitled “Pneumonia.” Partially inspired by the passing of McTague’s father, the emotional fragility of this subject matter is shown deep respect with the band’s poetic approach. Through shifting sonic moods, discordant layers, spiraling tension, anger and acceptance, they use music to illustrate the adventure of life, which is, at its core, a journey toward death.
A yin and yang of the brightest black and the darkest white, Voyeurist is a humbling dissection of the battles we face in life as we climb our way toward death. A collection of internal monologs, the album toys with the shame that arises alongside a wavering faith and loss of gratitude, mental health, and the suffocating nature of the violent noise around us. Perhaps, most of all, it is an open invitation to discuss these harsh realities, creating a forum for listeners to ask the questions that haunt their daily existence. And it’s done so in a package that is as enticing to the ears as that long ago apple was to a woman named Eve. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Voyeurist 5 of 5 stars.