Underoath Pleases Fans with Metal Mastery in Irvine

Underoath Live

Playing in a heavy rock band has certain expectations that come along with it – loud guitars, harsh screaming, hardcore breakdowns. Yet Christian metalcore act Underoath has chosen to push genre boundaries instead, as its show Saturday night at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center demonstrated.

Touring in support of its latest critically acclaimed release “Lost in the Sound of Separation,” the band fully displayed its growth. “Separation,” its second straight effort to debut in Billboard’s top 10, follows in the footsteps of 2006’s gold-selling “Define the Great Line.” As that disc saw the group move away from its previous screamo-leaning style, “Separation” continues to embrace a more experimental approach filled with twists and turns.

After taking the stage to avant-garde film clips, Underoath wasted little time in opening up the mosh pits. Kicking off with “Breathing in a New Mentality” and “In Regards to Myself” was like a one-two punch to the gut. The powerful tandem of lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain’s guttural screaming and drummer Aaron Gillespie’s soaring singing was evident throughout the night on tracks like “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures” and “Writing on the Walls.” The two effortlessly feed from each other, with Chamberlain striking dramatic poses up front while Gillespie rocks out behind the drum kit. But the band isn’t satisfied with such a simple dynamic.

New songs such as “Emergency Broadcast :: The End is Near” and “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear” showed why the group has moved far ahead of its metal peers. Armed with soaring instrumentals you’d expect from someone like Explosions in the Sky, combined with epic gang vocals and hand claps, Underoath makes clear that this is not a typical band. Not only does it know how to headbang but this is also a group of acute musicians, and that talent is what stood out the most.

The only downside to the set was its length, as it barely lasted over an hour and could have easily made room for a few more songs. Nevertheless, the buoyant force and seamless tempo changes were enough to prove this is a band at the top of its game.

Meanwhile, post-hardcore outfit Saosin provided main support, and the Newport Beach natives turned in another solid performance. Vocalist Cove Reber, whose high-pitched singing tends to be very hit or miss live, opted for more screams than usual, perhaps influenced by the heavier bands on the bill. He was full of energy and continually thanked the hometown crowd for its support, making up for his awkward new dreadlock hairstyle. The band’s secret weapon, drummer Alex Rodriguez – no relation to the Yankees slugger – always kept things moving at a breakneck speed with his lightning-quick drum fills.

The group’s set contained both old and new material, including a pair of songs from its first self-released EP “Translating the Name.” However, the highlights came from its 2006 self-titled album, as both “Voices” and “You’re Not Alone” had the crowd moving and singing along. The band also previewed two songs from its upcoming record, currently slated for a spring release. While both were solid tunes, neither quite lived up the high standards Saosin previously has delivered.

For those who arrived early, the Devil Wears Prada and the Famine brought the heavy right off the bat. While the latter sounded like your typical generic metal band, the former was a little more successful at mixing in clean vocals and colorful synths. However, when you’re playing in front of one of the best, it’s easy to get lost in the sound.

Originally appeared in The Orange County Register