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Review: Underoath returns unafraid with skillful, intense 'Erase Me' (Review: A-minus)

Judging by quite a few comments on social media posts made by the American rock band Underoath, some people really hate their new album, “Erase Me,” released Friday.

Some people no longer like the band because all but one of its members no longer identify as Christian. A few curse words even show up on the new album.

Others deserted the band because of lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s struggles with addiction.

Many are outraged that the band has returned after an 8-year absence with a much more accessible sound. More anthemic, straight-up heavy rock – quite a departure from the band’s Christian metalcore roots, sometimes screamo sounds and even its most-recent release, 2010’s dark “Ø (Disambiguation).”

Of course, some people are still never going to like Underoath. Too loud. Too much screaming.

But, if you’re a fan of heavy rock or an Underoath fan who isn’t purposefully handcuffed to what the band used to be, it’s hard not to at least respect what the band did here.

“Erase Me” is a bruising, cathartic, balanced listen.

The band has always been at its best when it walked a staggered line between metal and alternative. It’s the balance that made 2004’s “They’re Only Chasing Safety” and 2006’s “Define The Great Line” so great.

With “Erase Me,” the band has unapologetically returned with a sound more suited for hard rock radio. That’s not a bad thing.

While recording “Erase Me,” band members explained that saying “this doesn’t sound Underoath enough” was not allowed. Good for them.

Not being shackled by those expectations allowed the band to write songs like “Rapture” and “ihateit,” two of the album’s best.

It led to the band writing the soaring choruses in “Hold Your Breath,” “Wake Me,” and “In Motion.”

It gave the band a chance to write more melodic, electronic-minded songs such as “Bloodlust” and “Sink With You.”

The album still rips, too. The first single, “On My Teeth,” is a roaring response from Chamberlain to his detractors. The song’s lyrics are raw and real, just like the rest of the album.

Though his skillful, signature style of drumming is easy to notice, with founding member and drummer Aaron Gillespie back in the fold for the first time in 10 years, I would’ve liked to hear him provide more vocals. (Gillespie fronted The Almost, a band worth checking out.) Though it makes sense that Chamberlain had a lot of things to get off his chest on “Erase Me.”

The album is an honest reflection of a band unafraid of what it’s become, what it believes. Stylistic jumps such as this should be celebrated, though they rarely are.

Some bands don’t have the guts, and some that do don’t have the skill.

On “Erase Me,” Underoath proves without a doubt – it has both.

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