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Underoath – Define The Great Line

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    When Underoath took their brief intermission on their 2016 Rebirth Tour, the banner behind Aaron Gillespie’s drum kit fell to floor, revealing the wind-swept dunes of 2006’s Define The Great Line as 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety’s final notes still reverberated around the venue. I stood on the delightfully shaky floors of Atlanta’s The Tabernacle, my favorite venue, and felt all of the memories of the upcoming album wash over me. Five years later, they’re still just as vivid.

    The weekend before Define came out, my high school sweetheart and I ended our relationship. I “lost” my best friend, her sister, in the same fell swoop. I handled it all with the maturity of a sixteen year old boy, which is to say, I threw myself headfirst into very loud, very angst-ridden music. “In Regards to Myself”’s refrain of “What are you so afraid of?” became a rallying cry when I could bring myself to stop listening to Emery’s “The Ponytail Parades”… I know my flaws.

    Like many of you reading this and reminiscing with me on this album, I’d already heard the leaked version of Define. I knew that something immensely more huge than Safety was coming. By this point in the album rollout, I’m pretty sure MTV had also already premiered the whole album on their website, “Writing on the Walls” played nonstop on Steven’s Untitled Rock Show, and I’d (probably) set streaming records on Underoath’s PureVolume page if things like that were tracked back in the aughts.

    The day Define came out, MySpace announced a Secret Show (remember those?) with Underoath and Sullivan (remember them?) in the Tampa Bay Area where I lived and had grown up—also Underoath’s hometown. One of my buddies stood in line for hours to meet them at Hot Topic at the mall leading up to this show while the rest of my friends drove across town and got us the free tickets, even though we’d just seen them less than a month earlier at Cornerstone, Florida. We all received a special poster with Underoath under a stylized Gasparilla pirate ship—our hometown heroes over our hometown icon. I still have it framed to this day.

    Three days later, Joan Jett said, “My good friends in Underoath are up next!” as the notes of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” still reverberated over Vinoy Park at my first Warped Tour. My parents’ generation of rock star introducing mine. Without my parents and their ever-expanding love of music, I never would’ve developed a passion for music. Spencer roared onto the stage and that hometown crowd, and this hometown boy, once more gave into the euphoria. The next day, the local paper had an overhead shot of the crowd estimated at 20,000 people in front of that stage while the rest of the festival looked empty.

    Underoath we’re the unlikeliest next candidates poised to take over the world out of the Warped Tour scene when you take in what their music actually sounded like. My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy were doing victory laps around the world at this point, Taking Back Sunday and AFI weren’t all that far behind, and Paramore were waiting in the wings… but the summer of 2006 was all about Underoath. 98,000 first week sales and #2 on the charts behind Nelly Furtado… it’s hard to think of a heavy, non-legacy band doing equivalent numbers these days. It was even harder to think of a band in Underoath’s genre doing those numbers back then before they did it.

    But if you were around this music scene in 2006, you probably know what happened next.

    A few weeks later, Underoath dropped off the tour and Spencer went to rehab. 2018’s Erase Me’s “Hold Your Breath” reflects back on this time: “Alone at the top of the world, I forgot it was safe down below, I used to be so afraid.” There was famously beef with Fat Mike from NOFX. Underoath’s Christianity constantly was brought up. Multiple Alternative Press covers and interviews breaking down everything that happened. Somewhere along the way, people forgot that Underoath was a band made up of human beings. The vitriol against Underoath on certain message boards, ahem, during this time led to many people even not acknowledging their fandom—something seen with large portions of that music scene at the time. Thankfully, this part of message board culture isn’t nearly as prevalent. Or maybe I just don’t care anymore. I was sixteen years old and worried about being cool, and now I’m thirty-one and know I’m not, but I’ve always kept my love of Underoath on my sleeve.

    Fifteen years later, I’m still here and thinking about what Define and that chaotic summer still mean to me. There have always been “better” bands than Underoath, and many “wiser” music consumers than I have been quick to tell me about them—but there has never been a more humanly invested band than Underoath by my reckoning. To attend an Underoath show was to, excuse the reference, feel a sense of connected rapture. Thousands of screaming fans knowing every word like they wrote them themselves—and they probably did, on their skin, in their diaries, on their Myspaces… They’re not the perfect live band, but they’re the live band that’s near impossible to beat. They demand your attention, and your respect, more than any other performing act I have ever witnessed. They leave every single drop of energy in their bodies on the stage.

    I have seen Beyoncé and Taylor Swift command a stadium of 70,000 and I have seen Celine Dion hit the high note of “My Heart Will Go On,” but the crowd sing-a-long of “drowning in my sleep” from “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” is still my singular favorite live moment of any live music event I’ve attended.

    I’ve seen Underoath breakup. I’ve seen Underoath reborn. I’ve seen Underoath with and without Aaron Gillespie. I’ve seen Underoath after a radio hit. I’ve seen Underoath in five cities, nine venues, and three states. I’m adding a venue, city, and state come September when I see them headline Furnace Fest—a big reason that I decided to write this retrospective now instead of at the twenty-year mark. The only tour I’ve missed within reasonable driving distance since 2006 was while I was studying abroad in Italy my junior year of college—regrettably the one where Thursday played Full Collapse as the supporting act. To understand this level of devotion, I just have to state it plain: Define The Great Line means everything to me. Let me try to give you some insight into why.

    “In Regards To Myself” is that song that makes me want to tear down skyscrapers with my bare hands. When they open a show with it, there is not a motionless soul in the place. It’s a perfect introduction to the album: Spencer Chamberlain unleashes the first of many barrages against himself. But he also strafes himself with hope. As someone who suffers to that horrible disease depression, sometimes it matters to find something that embraces the darkness within while strafing yourself with hope.

    The heartbreaking thing in looking back on this album is knowing the hope that peppers Define was a carefully constructed façade, an illusion, a stick figure in an illustration. “I was lying when I said I was looking north; I was too scared to show what I am,” Chamberlain wrote on 2008’s “A Fault Line, a Fault of Mine”—directly contradicting Define’s “To Whom It May Concern”: “Set your sights to the North. Press on. This is not your escape.”

    I used to draw the lyrics “we’re nothing but hollow vessels in search of what makes us alive” on my forearms with sharpies, waiting for the day I could tattoo them on my skin. I still haven’t done that, but I think about getting an empty jar or two permanently marked on my skin from time to time to represent those words. My parents had recently divorced, I’d lost my girlfriend, and my best friend and the lyrics later in the song of “everything around me is crumbling at my feet” became a cry from the depths of my soul.

    I’m not the best person when it comes to talking about the actual music. I took guitar lessons and some basic music theory, but that wasn’t where my talents lay. But music hits me harder than most people. I can scoff at the producer fired from the album for wanting to axe the drum into to “Moving for the Sake of Motion,” but I couldn’t tell you a good reason why that intro had to be there other than the fact it rips. I don’t know how to write the retrospective that shows the legacy that Define the Great Line had on heavier acts that came later, but I can tell you that I haven’t heard a heavier song I love more than “Returning Empty Handed” since 2006—a song that’s been a prayer, a cry for help, a cathartic release.

    Even reading over this retrospective, I don’t know that I’ve said enough—or the right thing. I haven’t mentioned four of the band members, despite the fact that watching Chris and Tim perform live is one of the most enthralling things you will ever witness in music or the fact that Grant and James anchor the band through sheer stalwart normalcy.

    This is my third in a series of fifteen-year retrospectives of my top three favorite albums of all time. All of them turned fifteen in the midst of a global pandemic violently throwing our lives off-track. I’m not the person I was at fifteen and sixteen when I first heard those albums, but they stayed with me until I’m now thirty-one with a host of way more adult problems. At the end of the day, that’s what we want out of our music: something that stays with us as we grow—and Underoath has been the most faithful. Many of the artists I listened to in 2006 are nostalgia listens for me these days… but not these songs. Not these albums. Not this band.

    In “Casting Such A Thin Shadow,” Spencer screams out, “I can still stand if you lend a hand to brace me.” Except, unlike Spencer on this album, I can’t do this on my own. After a decade of depression, broken dreams, and a lack of hope: I need music. I need my friends. I need my family. I was never the one most likely to, but neither was Underoath, and yet, despite our own intentions, inventions, and vices… here we both still are. Here we both still stand.

    See you boys in a few months. I can’t wait. Maybe I can finally meet you and thank you in person this time. But if not, I hope you see this and know there are thousands of thankful fans with a myriad of stories just like me.

    What about you, reader? What does this album mean to you? I’d love to know.


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  2. mrenkens007

    Surprise, Surprise Prestigious

    Damn, man... Captured the personal feeling of that time so accurately. It just clicked for the scene in a way that, like you said, made little sense in the scope of pop music.

    I had to do some construction stuff for a few summers in Orlando in the early 2010s, and legitimately did tear down buildings with In Regards To Myself soundtracking the event.

    But the one that makes me feel like Hulk will forever remain Everyone Looks So Good From Here. "I swear, I slipped, right through the cracks in the floor." In the (now) countless times I've seen them, its always the one I wait for.
    thebe_st, surgerone and Garrett like this.
  3. Garrett

    I'd like to be my old self again Moderator

    I vaguely remember a Hot Topic shirt with those lyrics and a monkey with cymbals? But yeah, that’s another one where I’ve lost my voice to the “I CAN FINALLY WALK THROUGH THE WALLS.”

    That was actually my working title for this.
    thebe_st and mrenkens007 like this.
  4. JamesMichael

    Developer Prestigious

    Such a classic. I still remember Writing on the Walls playing none stop on MTV.

    I was lucky enough to catch them a few times and once during this album release.
    thebe_st and Garrett like this.
  5. awakeohsleeper

    I do not exist.

    Great read. I’m actually 31 too, haha!

    For me living in the UK and seeing this album chart in the US so high was just so flipping cool. I couldn’t believe it. It made me feel less alone - that there were people like me out there somewhere.

    I prefer Lost In The Sound but this is definitely their monumental record. 2006, man, what a year.
    coleslawed, thebe_st and Garrett like this.
  6. Garrett

    I'd like to be my old self again Moderator

    This is definitely a big part of what Underoath has always meant to me, especially sharing a hometown. I've always been a pretty lonely kid/adult, but there was always connection.
  7. thebe_st


    Fuck this is a great review. You had 2 lines, specifically, that I actually feel when I read them. They are so true that they take me to core memories and I can't help but get emotional:

    Actual Gospel. The first time I saw this was moments after Aaron Weiss and Josh Scroggin joined Norma Jean as they melted the stage in an epic closer of "Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste". Those 2 moments, I pray, will stay with me a lifetime. That I get to share this with someone, on the same level, is wholly cathartic. Which leads me to the second quote:

    I have a video of my 2 and 4YOs absolutely going bananas to "In Regards to Myself", a song I needed several times during the height of this pandemic. I'm 36 and this music is both a time machine and timeless. My kids love it, and it takes me back to a when I was surrounded by friends and family, and not just work and quarantine. It reminds of what I'm striving to get back to, why I take these stupid fucking pills every day, and how that hopefully won't be forever. Thank you for writing this. This review was what I needed today. @Garrett
    Crisp X and Garrett like this.
  8. Garrett

    I'd like to be my old self again Moderator

    I'd give up a kidney to see this.

    Thanks for sharing your memories/struggles with me, too!
    awakeohsleeper and thebe_st like this.
  9. Chcurry182


    This is one of the few heavier albums I still listen to regularly.

    15 years later and the second the intro to Writing on the Walls starts I’m instantly transported back to the summer of ‘06.

    I’d watch the video every time it was on Fuse or MTV. Couldn’t get enough.
  10. zachmacD Jul 22, 2021
    (Last edited: Jul 22, 2021)


    This is definitely their best album even though it took me years to come around to it.

    I saw them at bamboozle 2006 and I remember they had planes flying around advertising DTGL and that album release felt like such a huge deal. The energy of that set was unlike anything I experienced. I actually saw them the day before in Allentown and the crowd rushed the stage and my feet weren’t touching the ground for their set. The girl I was with was facing backwards when that happened and couldn’t turnaround to face the stage. Sounds miserable now but 2004-2006 was such a cool time for this music genre.
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  11. I don't even know where to begin but, despite prefering O (Disambiguation), this was such a hugely influential album on me. Along with Enter Shikari's debut and Protest The Hero's Fortress, Define The Great The Line defined (no pun intended) the four years of middle school that I spent miserable and lonely, already striving for connections and an escape from all my personal and internal problems. I didn't have anyone my age or even older who listened to this kind of music. I think I accidentally lived in an area where the absolutepunk adjacent music was basically unknown, except for maybe Fall Out Boy and Paramore.

    I remember when this album came out, but didn't actually listen to it until Spring 2008, I believe. The lead up to Lost In The Sound Of Separation is partly what made me join at 13 years old back then. Even though my connection to the album is very different now that I'm an adult with tons of responsability and baggage behind, everytime I put it on, it instantly takes me back to that place. I get reminded of my teenage self who had all of these dreams and wanted to take over the world or something. This sounds angsty, but damn if I swore by all these words and riffs and melodies back then. I also remember picking up my first electric guitar the following summer and learning my craft by playing the album front to back, I'm pretty sure their influence is still prevalent when I play or write anything today. It's a particular kind of nostalgia I'm grateful for.

    And oh boy, I used to watch that Myspace Show all the time on YouTube. I even remember hiding earphones in the computer lab so I could listen to it while pretending to be doing homework.

    So I end this post with a similar sentiment, in the sense that I don't feel like I've written anything about the album's actual content, but I can't help but have all these buried memories come back to mind. Sharing them is what makes music discussions so fun and cathartic isn't it?
  12. keeganbushey


    I remember the scene around that time when that album came out. I remember how colorful, pun-filled, and fun everything was. Looking back on it, it really was one cliche after another after another. I think there was also a little bit of what would be called culture appropriation at the time. I look back on all of that and laugh and think "yeah that was fun but silly".

    But this album was felt (still feels) absolutely serious. I remember it feeling like everything stopped at once. It was so different and dark and mature sounding. I know they really tried to make the visuals and the art a big part of it but my god that sound is still so good and powerful.

    I guess the only metaphor I have is this album, at that time, felt like a tornado slammed into a theme park.
    Chcurry182, thechetearly and Garrett like this.
  13. SupMikecheck


    Sweet!! i just released a song with Aaron Gillespie featured today
  14. thechetearly


    A few things on my experience with this record:

    1. I was in high school (I think a junior) and was in the marching band. In our band room we had a slick computer, and on that computer, one of the other trumpets had downloaded the pre-finished DTGL record, and we all basically sat in a circle and listened to it. I remember thinking it was fine, but not much else.

    2. I really, really did not like the record at first. I remember I had bought the deluxe version, and was listening to it in my parents van (on the way to marching band practice), and just thinking "this is waaaaay too heavy for me". When I got to practice, my friend (named Spencer, ironically) started just going off about how much he LOVED the album. And I thought, well, if Spencer loves it, I should keep listening to it. It took me maaaybe a month (if not more) to understand it. But when it clicked, it really, really clicked. That's the first memory I have of needing to sit with the art, and that that is okay to do. In fact, the more challenging the art is, often times, the bigger the pay off.

    3. This, to me, is still an objectively great record. Not even in a nostalgic sense, in a very real, I still will listen to it because I think it's great, sense. Also, I've always loved how the mix for DTGL was so thick, and broad, and then the mix for LITSOS was almost the opposite (in that it sounds very precise, clear, almost dry sounding at times).

    While I don't listen to heavy music, as a whole, as much as I used to, I'm still hopeful for the day that another hardcore band will come out with something that is of equal caliber to this album. Always bums me out that the hardcore scene seems to lack so much innovation. That being said, The Armed's new record comes pretty freaking close to snapping at UO's heels.
  15. thechetearly


    That is sincerely a perfect metaphor. I 100% agree.
    Garrett likes this.
  16. marceting


    In Regards To Myself riff tho...
    Garrett likes this.
  17. You could've at least put a few minutes into sharing your thoughts about the album before doing this shameless plug...
    coleslawed likes this.
  18. sblackburn


    Few heavy songs have affected me as profoundly as “Returning Empty Handed” has. So much raw energy and passion….just so immensely inspired. I have always loved the disconnectedness of it. Really captures the chaos.
  19. disambigujason

    Trusted Supporter

    Continuing my DTGL sleeve this week. This album couldn’t mean more to me.
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  20. Dog Fish

    soups up

    I was once a mormon missionary in a former life (~2006). For those unfamiliar, there are very strict rules (which included 2 years without movies or music). For 3 weeks of those two years, I broke some rules and bought a few records. DTGL was one of the records I bought, and holy shit did it knock me to the floor. Not hearing a single note of the scene's music for over a year and then spinning this? Damn.
  21. Bartek T.

    D'oh! Prestigious

    Wow, that would hit me really hard! Unbelievable. I'm not sure if I couldn't count the amount of days without music in my life on my fingers!