EDITORIAL: 10 Years of Underoath’s ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’

Underoath TOCS

“Believe me, man! If you’re into any of that ‘screamo’ stuff, you’ll love this record! Just give it a shot and let me know what you think”!

I can still remember those exact words spoken to me as my friend returned my iPod Nano after a day of uploading it with the contents of his digital library in the fall of 2006. I was scanning through new additions and came across a really intriguing album cover to an album called They’re Only Chasing Safety by Underoath, and I just had to ask about it.

By that afternoon, I found myself plugging my speakers in and relaxing as I began the first of what would later become an innumerable amount of listens to what is considered by many to be one of the most influential albums of that decade, and as of yesterday, June 15, this record has turned 10 years old.

Beforehand, I didn’t see the appeal of a band like Underoath. Mind you, this was at a time when the band had already released Define the Great Line, but I only casually listened to singles. It wasn’t until I gave TOCS a spin from front to back that I was able to appreciate this band for what they did.

Now, the concept of fusing heavy music with pop sensibilities was nothing new (we have ’80s glam metal, and even nu-metal to thank for that), but it wasn’t until this album came along where mainstream audiences became all the more accepting of scream-heavy music. The thought of a band of this kind given any kind of airtime on channels like MTV (back when TRL was still around) or Fuse was something that could not have been seen for miles. It took a little more than catchy hooks to keep listeners attentive, it took experimentation. Fusing complex and ambient sounds influenced by bands like Radiohead takes a lot of work when a group is trying to maintain some of the heaviness that was oh-so-proudly displayed on their past effort, The Changing of Times.

Right off the bat, the album’s opener, “Young and Aspiring,” shows Underoath at the core level. Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain exchange their clean and unclean vocals over a wall of guitars, pounding drums, and sprinkled electronics. There’s really nothing that takes the spotlight in particular on this track, rather than boiling down into interesting parts played by individual instruments, the song just sort of keeps its consistency from start to finish. It’s this same format that becomes some kind of a template for future tracks to come from this Tampa, FL band.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any “WOW!” moments that come to mind when listening to this record. Believe me, there are plenty of those. But the layering that’s showcased on tracks like “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” and “Reinventing Your Exit” have frequently prompted me to replay the song, just to listen intently and hear how some instruments would sound individually or combined with one another, and it’s those little things that have made the album all the more enjoyable.

There’s no overarching concept behind it, but this is an album that truly needs to be heard from beginning to end. All of the subtle intricacies of the instrumental-heavy songs like “The Blue Note” and “I Don’t Feel Very Receptive Today” are things that should be caught based off of where they fall into place. Many artists struggle with ordering tracks in such a way that captivates listeners, but this is something that Underoath have done with ease, starting with this album.

Regardless of how many cut-and-paste clones and rip-offs have been made by other groups since its release, They’re Only Chasing Safety has truly stood the test of time. Underoath were already achieving a considerable amount of success prior to this album, but this was truly a paradigm shift and revealed itself to be a turning point for not only the band’s career, but for Christian music and post-hardcore as well. It’s hard to believe that this is the same band that has gone on to release far-reaching albums like Define the Great Line and Lost in the Sound of Separation, but it’s this same kind of innovation and drive to continually push the envelope that has inspired artists, and will continue to for many more years to come.

Written by Adrian Garza (follow him on Twitter)

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