Florida hardcore outfit Underøath built a devoted following as a hard-hitting Christian metalcore band in the early 2000s, evolving into a dynamic rock group that adeptly blended emotive melody and charged punk rock rhythms. At their peak, they took an almost decade-long hiatus before re-emerging in 2018 free of religious labels.
Underøath formed in 1998 in vocalist Dallas Taylor's bedroom. Within a year, the group -- with guitarist Tim McTague, drummer Aaron Gillespie, and keyboardist Christopher Dudley -- had inked a deal with Alabama's Takehold record label. In July 1999, Underøath released the six-song Act of Depression CD, which sold over 2,000 copies. The five-song Cries of the Past followed a year later, selling over 3,000 copies.
In 2002, Takehold licensed all of its bands and releases to Seattle's Tooth & Nail/Solid State label. Underøath hit the studio and recorded the ten songs that would comprise their first album under the new partnership, appropriately titled The Changing of Times. Taylor abruptly left the group in the middle of 2003's Warped Tour, leaving distressed fans contemplating the band's uncertain future. Underøath -- which also included bassist Grant Brandell and guitarist James Smith -- continued, however, enlisting ex-This Runs Through member Spencer Chamberlain as their new vocalist.
A year later, the new lineup released They're Only Chasing Safety and supported it on the road with bands like Thrice, the Bled, Hopesfall, and Fear Before the March of Flames. A special edition of the album was next released in fall 2005 and included four bonus tracks. Touring continued with a spring 2006 headlining tour alongside Poison the Well, As Cities Burn, and others. Deciding to stick with Tooth & Nail instead of jumping to a major label, the sextet showcased substantial growth and maturity on its next effort, Define the Great Line, issued in June 2006. A heavier, more emotional album than the breakout success of 2004's Chasing Safety, the record sold close to 100,000 copies in just its first week of release and was certified gold by year's end. Embraced by fans and critics alike and considered the band's masterpiece by many, the group supported it on Warped's main stage that summer.
But with a month of dates remaining, tensions within Underøath's ranks suddenly came to a head, causing them to drop off the traveling festival circuit. Rumors swirled of their impending breakup, but the guys remained adamant that a much-needed break was merely due to sort things out. They proved themselves by returning in 2006 with Define the Great Line. Climbing all the way to number two, the album became the highest-charting Christian album on the Billboard 200 since 1997 when LeAnn Rimes took the number one spot with You Light Up My Life. Underøath entered the studio in 2008 for Lost in the Sound of Separation, an 11-song behemoth that saw the group adopt a darker, more experimental (yet still heavy) sound. In 2009, drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie left the group, and was replaced by ex-Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison. Ø (Disambiguation), the group's seventh full-length recording, arrived the following year and peaked in the Top 25 of the Billboard 200. After supporting the effort on tour, they announced their breakup.
In the ensuing years, Underøath issued Anthology: 1999-2013 (Solid State Records), in addition to the compilation Play Your Old Stuff and reissues of their first two albums, Act of Depression and Cries of the Past, in 2013.
Despite a brief reunion in 2015, the band would not release new material until 2018 on their eighth studio full-length, Erase Me. In addition to publicly dropping their "Christian band" label, Underøath also welcomed returning drummer/vocalist Gillespie for the album. Featuring the singles "Rapture" and "On My Teeth," Erase Me was a radical departure from past work, balancing their usual conviction and fury with polished production by Matt Squire (Panic! At the Disco, the Used). ~ Ryan J. Downey & Neil Z. Yeung