By Ryan Broderick, Editor-in-Chief
UnderOATH shouldn't be a band. The pop-screamo wave of 2006 is over and most of their peers went with it. The rest of genre now is glorified hair metal for angry tweens, irrelevant butt-rock or some horrible mix of the two. On the band's newest album they take their last real step away from the sing/screamo/electronics-go-clickity-clack formula they made popular in the mid-2000s.
Disambiguation, written after the departure of their singer, drummer and only original member Aaron Gillespie, is some pretty decent metal mixed with some pretty weak post-hardcore that glosses over into nothing really interesting by album's end.
The guitar parts are heavy, their ambiance is dark, their new drummer, Daniel Davison, formerly of hardcore band Norma Jean, is able to pull off some really punishing drum beats, but there's a blandness there. Good metal is hard and catchy metal is harder. On their previous efforts, "Define The Great Line" and "Lost In The Sound Of Separation," there was a fun or at least a cleverness to their work, a feeling that it wasn't done in complete earnestness and an ironic detachment.
With Disambiguation it seems like they are actually, genuinely trying to be a metal band and that is really too bad, because they're not really that good at it. Sure they can be heavy, screamer Spencer Chamberlain probably has one of the best voices around for it, sometimes going from an impossibly low blast to a piercing shriek, but it's nothing new.
There's no hook to come back to. There's no memorable piece of any particular song that makes a listener seek out one of the 11 sludgy, similar tracks and listen again. It's unfortunate too, because heavier screamo with an ear for more classic sounds and techniques could be exactly what the genre needs to get out of the cock rock toilet bowl it's circling.
A lot of the websites that still cover the Warped Tour side of the music industry are hailing Disambiguation as the album to bring intelligence back to screamo. Not really though, it brings the similar, wishy-washy floating cut and paste job that made the genre irrelevant in the first place.
The one song that brings itself out of the slow, brooding, monotonous sludge is "Vacant Mouth," it almost gets into an At The Drive-In groove before the vocals kick in and the gloom and doom overloads it and it sinks itself. What UnderOATH lost with Gillespie was the idea that metal can have some energy to it. It can race and jump and not just stomp but in all their effort to darken their aesthetic, they've lost what set them apart: their energy.
Make no mistake, droning, sludgy doom metal has its place, but not like this, not with clean vocals, not written by UnderOATH. By the time you get to track 11, you'll be hard-pressed to point out anything that really stood apart.