Out With the Old?

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 15:58

album promo image for Out With the Old?

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

Underoath on the Comeback Attack
Anyone with even remote awareness of the hard rock scene knows that Underoath is at the top of today's heap, though the heavy handed troupe isn't just making headlines for its faith-based world view. The group was the subject of much speculation when walking off the Vans Warped Tour in 2006, citing members' need to repair their personal friendships with one another, followed by drummer Aaron Gillespie's highly successful side project The Almost. The writing on the wall suggested a break-up was right around the corner, but with a much-needed break from the road, the band was able to amply recharge its batteries.

"When I went home from Warped [in 2006], I said 'I'm going to work at Taco Bell, see you later' because I was basically done with it," offers bassist Grant Brandell, laughing in hindsight now that the tension and toil of that summer's completely worn off. "Chad Johnson, the A&R guy at our label, told us to just pray about it and think if that was really what God wanted. He said 'so many people have been affected by Underoath, I can't see it ending this way,' so there was one day when we just hung out as friends and got connected again at that level. Then from there, we had a meeting – one of the most brutally honest we'd ever been in – found out where each other's hearts were and realized something more can be done."

These days, the sextet is stronger than ever both off and on stage, not to mention the studio, as traced throughout the brand new Lost In the Sound of Separation (Tooth & Nail/Solid State Records). Outside of showcasing an evolution of the band's scalding but melodic balance, it also takes listeners on a journey of digging into the darkest corners of their soul and coming out cleansed in Christ.

"I think every record we try to push a little more and the fact that there's six different dudes makes us have a huge span of influences," he explains. "We're definitely a heavy band, but we're not anti-melody by any means, and we tried to dig into different areas of music. Some of the songs are more jammy, which is cool, plus we've become tighter as players and better as songwriters...I don't want to say the title's interpretive, but it is broad, dealing with choices. It asks the question 'are you gonna make the decision to change?' as it relates to the experience of growing up, though it's funny because the very last line of the record says 'I've found God/Oh, God! Save us all.'"

Impact is indeed a primary focus of Underoath, even if they don't typically play at Christian clubs or with bands associated with that culture. Though Brandell, when prompted about this month's Gospel Music Heritage celebration, remembers seeing Petra as his first-ever concert and following Five Iron Frenzy, the group's focus remains reaching out to the unchurched.

"The night [before our album came out], I went to the Virgin Megastore in New York and there were two kids already in line since 2 p.m. for our signing at the store the next day!" he recalls. "I went up to say 'hi' and we got to talking where one of the guys named Ian was telling me he felt like God was pulling at his heart [through our music] and now here we were meeting up, which is such an amazing thing to me outside of the fact he was sitting in a lawn chair for ten hours just to buy our record!"

All in the Beginnings
Speaking of Gospel Music Heritage Month, the recently released CD/DVD box set The Beginnings Concert is like a one-stop-shop for several of the earliest Christian rockers. Subtitled "The Jesus Music Reunion," the four-disc concert collection includes living legends like Don Francisco, Dallas Holm, David Meece, Chuck Girard, plus Santana singer turned born-again-believer Leon Patillo. But even with the reflective nature of this massive undertaking, Francisco in particular tells us the experience is much more than merely nostalgia.

"I never once went back there in my head because it's so powerful to be singing these songs on stage now," he says of a set list that includes old-school hits "He's Alive," "Rise Again," "J.E.S.U.S." and "Name Above All Names." "After all these years, you can see the depth in our walks with the Lord, plus the increased anointing on this material, so [simply reliving yesterday] never once crossed my mind!"

Celtic Punk Power from Flatfoot 56
The increasing niche of Celtic-inspired punk rock has been creeping up from the underground ever since The Pogues surfaced in the 1980s, inspiring the likes of The Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers, Flogging Molly and Black 47. In Christian circles, Flatfoot 56 is the most readily recognized within this highly skilled niche and continues to expand its audience across all stylistic associations with its latest Jungle of the Midwest Sea (Flicker).

"Many Christian listeners are afraid of listening to anything that isn't rubber-stamped by the Christian music industry, and it's because of this that Christian listeners have been blown away by the different type of sound that Flatfoot 56 has," says singer/guitarist Tobin Bawinkel from the band's extensive fall tour. "How we hope to change the musical palate of the Christian listener is to simply get them out of their comfort zone and allow them to experience music that wasn't necessarily written to sell millions of records or that wasn't made to be palatable to just Christian listeners. Our music is written from our heart and to be real about who we are in Christ."


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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