Music artists have been forced to adapt and overcome these past two years in more ways than one. Twitch and other avenues of live streaming became the dominant way for artists to engage with their audiences, and for fans it's become a more intimate way to keep up with their favorites. Whether live or pre-recorded, musicians both big and small took over empty venues, rooftops, studios, living rooms and more to perform for people stuck at home.
But not many people could've guessed that this way of premiering new music or revisiting old tunes might just be here to stay. Few bands have embraced the format as quickly or as strongly as longtime metalcore heroes Underoath, whose Observatory series saw them returning to their trio of breakthrough albums - They're Only Chasing Safety, Define the Great Line, and Lost in the Sound of Separation - in a fresh and revelatory way.
With a decades-spanning career full of ups, downs, breakups and and reunions, it seemed fitting that the band was interesting in journeying back through the past for reexamination and reflection. But their latest streamed event, Voyeurist: Digital Ghost, shows a well-established and tight-knit group that has all eyes on the future, and the future is looking extremely bright - even if the music is dark as can be.
With three live streams already under their belt, Underoath understandably sought out a way for the next to be a bit different, and not simply because Digital Ghost is all new music this time around. The event serves as the premiere of the band's newest album, Voyeurist, their first LP in nearly four years that was both self-recorded and self-produced. The album is performed in its entirety here, re-recorded live in a studio to make for a crisp and perfectly mixed sound that instantly sets it apart from the quality of most other streams.
While yes, on the surface, Digital Ghost can appear to be just another at-home concert event of a band playing in a singular room, Underoath have packed enough production value and cinematic flair to make the performance feel massive. Tight camera work captures every band member at their best as they slam their instruments and themselves around to the new songs, weaving in and out of the space for engaging closeups and inspired angles. Once you reach the highlight of 'I'm Pretty Sure I've Run Out of Luck and Have No Friends' - a slower burn that builds up to a huge ending - the way that the camera slowly backs up with Chamberlain in the center of the frame with the band surrounding him as the song reaches its savagely heavy conclusion is nothing short of monumental.
In an attempt to blend a narrative in with the music, the stream begins with a silent figure clad in dark clothes and a bright white digital mask walking through an unknown city. It's the dead of night, and the mysterious person (perhaps a titular digital ghost themselves) strolls by a boardwalk and under street lamps with an eerie musical score accompanying them. There's hardly another person in sight, in fact, if it weren't for cars and the occasional bus passing by, you might think they were completely alone. Either way, the introduction does an excellent job of setting the mood for what's to come, which just so happens to be the band suddenly tearing into opening track and lead single 'Damn Excuses'. It explodes right off the bat, with the song (which was first released back in July) not having lost an ounce of its power and ferocity. If anything, it's only grown stronger.
The band is surrounded by big screens that you can't see the end or the top of, making the enclosed space come across as much larger than it probably is. The lights explode and pop in a whirlwind of colors and effects as the band rips through the new tracks - everything from the huge choruses of 'Hallelujah' to the adrenaline of 'Take a Breath' to the more moody and atmospheric 'Pneumonia' are complemented by the stream's hypnotizing visual feast. There's undeniable style here and an insanely good flow to it all, but it's the performance of album linchpin 'Thorn' that makes the event a must-see.
What really makes Digital Ghost stand out is the simple fact that the music is astonishingly great. It is, in fact, very likely the best collection of songs that the Florida natives have ever put together. Voyeurist sounds like how many of the greatest do; like a true collaborative work of art that was given the enough time, care and inspiration from a remarkably talented group of people to both sound and feel fully realized. There are enough flourishes in the songwriting that help Underoath stand out from a field that at times can feel very crowded, and the album itself has an ebb and flow that will make you leap off of furniture and start a mosh pit one minute and wistfully staring up at the sky the next. No songs feel underdeveloped here - all killer, no filler - but nor do any of them overstay their welcome.
Digital Ghost, with its simple but effective interludes between songs, an ensemble of digital mask-wearing dancers, and a band at the absolute top of their game, is one of the better concert streams you can find. This is a full-length visual accompaniment to an album that's incredibly strong on its own already, and is only enhanced even more here. Underoath show just how big their ambition is, and seem poised to conquer the world anew.
'Voyeurist ' from Underoath arrives January 14th via Fearless Records. Pre-order the album – HERE