Christian bands who play heavy music often find a philosophical divide between their work and some of their fans’ expectations. Generally, these expectations fall into one of two areas: Either the bands aren’t “Christian enough” or they’re not “heavy enough.” In the case of Florida’s Underoath, however, the band bypass both arguments by delivering enough power and glory to move Christian fans and non-believers alike. The Underoath story began in 1997 in Ocala, Florida, when high school buds Dallas Taylor (vocals) and Luke Morton (guitar) connected with Aaron Gillespie (drums/vocals) who attended the same church as the duo, and eventually enlisted Corey Steger (guitar) and Octavio Fernandez (bass) to round out their lineup. After two years of touring, Morton quit, just as Underoath signed with Alabama’s Takehold Records to release their 1999 debut, Act Of Depression. In 2000, synth op Chris Dudley joined the band just in time for the band’s second album, Cries Of The Past.
Underoath’s third effort, 2002’s The Changing Of Times, was their first for Solid State, the heavier imprint of the respected Christian label Tooth & Nail. The record went far to get the band’s aggressive sound—due in part to the addition of guitarist Tim McTague—on the contemporary-punk radar, landing Underoath on their first Warped Tour slot in the summer of 2003. That tour proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come: After being asked to leave that fall, singer Taylor was replaced by former This Runs Through frontman Spencer Chamberlain. When the band entered the studio in 2004 to record their next album, Gillespie, McTague, Dudley and Chamberlain were joined by guitarist James Smith and bassist Grant Brandell. The result of those sessions, 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, marked a turning point for Underoath in terms of both musicianship and popularity. Chamberlain’s shrieking turbine style complemented drummer Gillespie’s clean vocals, giving the album melodic pop smarts to match its full metal racket.
Safety helped galvanize a passionate fanbase of devout and secular followers but despite being a challenging blend of metal-fortified pop and straight-up screamo, it didn’t prepare fans for Underoath’s ambitious 2006 follow-up, Define The Great Line. At once heavier and noisier than ever, the album’s guitars conveyed a greater sense of urgency while Dudley’s expanded electronic flourishes helped create an unsettling release that made some listeners wonder if this really was the same band who had given the world Safety two years prior. Controversy followed Underoath when they played Warped that year, stemming from onstage ridicule by Fat Mike of NOFX about the band’s staunch belief system. Plain and simple, interpersonal relationships within the members had reached a head, and the band left Warped several weeks early to regroup and re-evaluate their future, ending the year by touring Europe and then wrapping up in the U.S. More extensive touring came up in 2007, culminating in a live recording, Survive, Kaleidoscope, which was issued in the spring of 2008. In early September of that year—after holding their ground on that summer’s Mayhem Festival alongside bands like Slipknot and Disturbed—Underoath released their sixth album, Lost In The Sound Of Separation. Another blistering affair, the disc found the band considerably upping the ante in the power sweepstakes while displaying growth as performers and writers.
Unbeknown to everyone involved, Separation would mark the end of an era in Underoath. In early April 2010, the band announced that Gillespie—their remaining founding member—would be leaving the band to focus on his successful rock side project the Almost, and write worship music. The following month, the band announced that former Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison would play on their next album, in addition to helping the band close out their 2010 tour commitments. Whatever future challenges the band have to face, Underoath seem to be more than prepared. “When I was a kid, this is always what I imagined [being in a band] would be like,” Chamberlain told AP in 2008. “It’s more of a brotherhood now. I don’t think any of us had that before.”
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