Above: Underneath performing at Brooklyn Steel on March 17. Photo by Buscar Photo.
As spring break came to a close, I figured I would let it finish with a bang. On March 17, Underoath played a sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg along with bands Stray from the Path, Bad Omens and Spiritbox. It was a great experience for my first metal show with an energetic crowd, tons of moshing and enough cathartic energy to help me finish this semester.
The show began around 7 p.m. with Stray from the Path — a hardcore punk band from Long Island — taking the stage first. They cycled through tracks like “Outbreak,” “Goodnight Alt-Right,” “Fortune Teller” and “Guillotine,” songs that encourage fans to be proud of their identity. In between songs, they reminded the audience to go against the system and hold corrupt cops and politicians accountable.
Vocalist Andrew Dijorio opened the show with a political statement. “You are all welcome to come to a Stray from the Path show, but let’s be clear — no to racism, no to facism and no to the alt right!”
After Stray from the Path wrapped their set, we all patiently waited for Bad Omens. They arrived with an elaborate display of lights, opening with the title track from their recent record, THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND. Frontman Noah Sebastian appeared with a quiet but stunning command of the stage, dressed in an all-black outfit and a singular black glove. The stage plunged into darkness for a moment, and then shot back to life with the song “ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE.”
“Welcome back, Bad Omens Cult,” Noah said from behind a ski mask as the crowd cheered. The group then cycled through a set that mixed new tracks with older ones, like “Dethrone” and “Like a Villain.”
Then it was time for the final opening group, Spiritbox, fronted by Courtney LaPlante. As someone who grew up admiring women in rock like Lacey Sturm and Brody Dalle, seeing Spiritbox perform was a delight. LaPlante had excellent vocal control as she switched from screaming to singing. She has a superb scream style that’s on the low end, more like a guttural growling sound. She interacted a few times with the crowd, including one funny moment when she told the mosh pit that was throwing a beach ball, “you’ll get your ball back after class.” Courtney also shouted out Underoath, asking the crowd to applaud them for the struggles they’ve been through as a band. Spiritbox’s set was just shy of ten tracks, covering songs from “Rule of Nines” to “Circle With Me,” and closing with “Eternal Blue.”
Just around 9:30 p.m., a single spotlight illuminated the stage. Some type of robot appeared, illuminated by the spotlight and its helmet.
“Good evening,” it said. “Thank you for coming to the Underoath Voyeurist concert. Your attendance here marks a lifetime of events that had to happen exactly the way they did to lead you here.”
It then explained guidelines for the show, instructing the audience to look around and feel each other’s presence. Then, it invited us to think inwards to reflect and feel our own breath — the whole speech was akin to a guided meditation.
The exercise then concluded with the crowd lifting up their arms as Underoath arrived onstage to play “Damn Excuses,” — the opening song on their Voyeurist album. Unlike the other groups — namely Bad Omens, who performed songs from their most recent record — Underoath stuck to their classic songs for the majority of their set. Only a few tracks were from their more recent albums, like Erase Me and Voyeurist.
This type of setlist makes sense; a majority of Underoath fans, at least from the New York show, are more familiar with their older stuff anyway. Early 2000s albums They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line are considered their most iconic, and a key part of their history as a Christian metalcore band. In 2018, the Erase Me era diverted from this sound, as the band declared that they were no longer Christian. They explained on their “Making of Voyeurist” podcast that Erase Me is a controversial body of work that came as they began to redefine themselves. That album also marked the return of drummer Aaron Gillespie, which was an adjustment for the band.
But, despite all of that, Underoath has grown so much. They gave Gillespie the spotlight a few times to highlight his drumming skills, which allowed the crowd to mosh and move with the music. Underoath is no longer a Christian metalcore band — they’ve evolved in their sound quite a lot, and much of Erase Me focused on their current relationship with faith and identity. These themes of existentialism continued on Voyeurist as they continued to blend contemporary and electronic elements with their established sound. Erase Me was Underoath’s most commercially successful album; with it, they even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance. But such an experimental record was bound to alienate some of their audience.
The middle of their set fused the past and the present. At one point, the crowd joined in a rousing a cappella performance of the bridge of “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door,” and then raptured in the intensity of “No Frame.” On a nostalgic note, “It’s Dangerous Business…” is the first Underoath song I ever heard. At the time, it was the loudest song I’d ever heard… and the rest was history.
After cycling through several high-energy songs, I was surprised to hear the opening chords of “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear,” one of the few overtly faith-based songs in Underoath’s earlier discography. The song comes from their 2008 album, Lost in the Sound of Separation, one of the last albums Aaron Gillespie recorded on before his departure in 2010, and it uses Aaron’s vocals alongside Spencer’s screaming — a beautiful example of what makes Underoath’s melodies so memorable. The song talks about what life would be like if one wasn’t serving God or willing to forgive others, and right before the breakdown at its end, all of the members sing, “Good God, can you still get us home?” Hearing that live was incredibly powerful, especially knowing all that Underoath has gone through publicly and the backlash they’ve received over the years from the church.
Underoath finished their set with “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White,” from They’re Only Chasing Safety, and then “Pneumonia,” — the instrumental finale of Voyeurist that pays tribute to the passing of guitarist Tim McTague’s father.
Overall, the show was an incredibly moving experience. It was great to hear the songs I’ve grown up with and even hear from groups I hadn’t previously known. Considering it was my first metal show, I was a little timid going in, but the show itself was great, and I’m proud to say I did well in my first mosh pit. Walking out of the show, I thought of the times in high school when I would make lyric posters of Underoath songs. I realized I finally got to hear all of those songs live — the songs that formed much of my love for metalcore. It was so much fun, and honestly a little therapeutic. Everyone in the mosh pit had great energy, was incredibly kind and mindful of everyone’s safety, and sang along to the songs that each had meaning to us — it was cathartic. Maybe I’ll crowd surf on the next tour.
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