The summer of 2006 was, undoubtedly, one of the best times of my life. I worked part-time for Sandy’s Pool Service, Begin Again was playing shows around Central Ohio, and UnderOath released the masterpiece Define the Great Line.
From the grungy opening riff, I knew this wasn’t quite the same band that tread pop-core territory with They’re Only Chasing Safety, and I loved it. This wasn’t much of a surprise, however. UnderOath was the band that first drew me across the line from hard rock into hardcore territory with regards to heavy music. I pre-ordered the album well in advance, intrigued by the artwork of desolation. When my special edition finally arrived in the mail one June day after work, I immediately took it upstairs and listened to it from beginning to end, leafing through the liner notes.
That collection of passionate and original songs became the soundtrack to that near-perfect summer. The inventive drumming kept me hooked. I blared the singable parts as I drove through warm, humid nights, straining with all my might to belt out the high notes as powerfully as Aaron Gillespie. I was enthralled by the complex song structures weaving technical guitar parts, jarring dissonance, brutal vocals, and electronic atmosphere. In short, these were songs I knew I could never write, and that is what kept me mesmerized well into the autumn. What’s more, the flow of music provided one of the most cohesive albums I had ever heard. There’s a fine line between songs that sound too similar and those that can transition seamlessly. Appropriately, UnderOath finds the near-perfect balance.
When it comes to lyrics, they are somewhat vague, as is the norm for the band. This would be a con for me without knowing the worldview of the members, but because it’s public knowledge that they profess faith in Jesus, deeper meaning can be drawn from the cryptic phrases. Themes from personal struggle and doubt to mourning the choices of a friend permeate the soundscape, as ominous as the scenes in the album art.
The sounds of Define the Great Line still transport me back to road trips, an ideal summer, and a more youthful version of myself. What’s more, many consider it the crowning achievement of UnderOath’s career. I tend to agree. It signifies an era of creative and unpredictable music which seems to have faded lately, and because of that, it has a place in my top ten albums.
You can find the innovative, genre-essential screamo of Define the Great Line on Spotify or Amazon.