Number 2. Underoath – Define The Great Line

There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand the idea of screaming to music; I loved music for its beauty, and I saw nothing beautiful in growling or yelling to a beat. Jacob urged me to listen to this band called Underoath and their album The Changing Of Times, and eventually I put on the first track “When The Sun Sleeps.” To my surprise, the music sounded really cool if I tuned out the screaming. At any rate, the screaming wasn’t just a violent bray; it was actual lyrics! (This was quite an epiphany for me.) The band mixed in some singing vocals as well, and I realized there might be more to this “screamo” thing than I had originally thought.

Jacob again urged me to check out their new tracks that were previewed on their MySpace, and I liked those even better. I asked for their new album for my eighteenth birthday along with the new Kutless CD. Well, one album I couldn’t get into no matter how much I tried, and the other I couldn’t put down. The Times were indeed Changing, and I was finally ready for Underoath to Define The Great Line between predictable, unimaginative “rock” and the true art of heavy music.

I found the music to be incredible. This album came into my life when I was becoming jaded with the radio scene and how the most uninspired four-chord ballads became instant successes simply because of their national airtime. I tried to play along with some of the Underoath songs and discovered that many of them were hardly even in a discernible key! And yet it didn’t sound like chaos, either… it was an intense sound, but it was a very deliberate and polished intense sound. The different instruments shot off in different directions, painting the landscape of a whole new mysterious and ethereal world (the four-minute instrumental intro to “Casting Such A Thin Shadow” is strikingly beautiful).

As I became accustomed to this new world, I got to where I could understand the screaming without the lyric sheet. I still loved the singing the most, though. Aaron Gillespie as a simultaneous hardcore drummer and vocalist was pretty impressive. I most loved the drawn-out closing song, “To Whom It May Concern,” with its encouraging lyrics laid over an exquisite build-up of calm to turbulence and back to calm again. I learned later that music like this was too “poppy” and not harsh enough for hardcore purists, but for me it was the perfect balance between screams and melody, between chaos and control, between intensity and peace, between what I knew I loved and what I used to not understand — allowing me to better appreciate both. It felt so much more powerful than the popular rock music that I was getting tired of, but the power was harnessed and presented in a controlled manner that was more appealing than I could ever have imagined.

It was like a gateway had been opened to a whole new world of heavier music, and I began delving farther inside. (I learned that hardcore music had its own generic players, thanks to my short honeymoon with Inhale Exhale.) The following year I got As I Lay Dying’s album An Ocean Between Us and began to understand the more metal aspects of the scene. I also gained a better appreciation of shared rhythm between multiple instruments with the stark double-bass/guitar combo. I stretched even farther to Norma Jean and thought maybe I had finally gone too far… just a little too much dissonance and not enough melody. I settled into a nice groove with Becoming the Archetype and their hard-hitting lyrics, but I finally bought The Chariot’s new CD just last week — although I can’t say how long I’ll stay there and whether or not I’ll venture even farther out… after all, melody is still the fundamental aspect of music for me.

So I am forever beholden to Underoath for opening my eyes to an entire scene of music, for changing my mind about the coarser aspects and allowing me to appreciate the talent, creativity, beauty, and inherent intensity and passion that sets hardcore, or whatever you want to call it, apart from other genres. I thank them for encouraging me to never be afraid of expanding my horizons to discover beauty in places I thought it could not be found, and that’s why Define The Great Line sits at Number Two.

My Most Important Albums Of The Decade
Week of 10/18 – Honorable Mentions (#14-#11)
Week of 10/25 – #10. Lord of the Rings
Week of 11/1 – #9. How To Save A Life
Week of 11/8 – #8. The Beautiful Letdown
Week of 11/15 – #7. Awakened
Week of 11/22 – #6. MMHMM
Week of 11/29 – #5. The Alchemy Index
Week of 12/6 – #4. A Collision
Week of 12/13 – #3. Brother, Sister
Week of 12/20 – #2. Define The Great Line
Week of 12/27 – #1. All The Houses Look The Same