Underoath Get Experimental On ‘Desperate’ Album; Plus Black Tide, Lamb Of God & More News That Rules, In Metal File

Upcoming album finds metalcore band playing with spooky electronic and proggy effects.

On Tuesday, the pride of Tampa, Florida, Grammy-nominated Christian metalcore outfit Underoath, invited Metal File out to Elmwood Park, New Jersey, to producer David Bendeth’s House of Loud studios — where Paramore’s breakthrough album, Riot!, was tracked — and gave us a quick foretaste of their upcoming 42-minute-long LP, which they’d finished mixing just hours earlier. All told, the mix, which is due in stores this fall, had the boys in the Garden State for nearly two weeks.

When we arrived, we found the band relaxing in the studio’s living-room-like lounge, playing “Wii Sports” and abusing the “Addams Family” pinball machine. After a quick photo shoot, Underoath played us six tracks from the disc, which they’ve given a title that they’re keeping under wraps (although guitarist Timothy McTague did slip, saying the name of the record ends with “ation” and that “it will make all album titles up to 2008 disintegrate”). It was the first time the band played any of the new material for anyone outside its inner circle.

According to frontman Spencer Chamberlain, the 11 songs, which were tracked over six weeks in March and April with producer and Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz for the follow-up to 2006′s Define the Great Line, were actually written over a two-year time span, and much of the lyrical content was inspired by the singer’s struggles and triumphs during that period.

“We write really slow,” he confessed, “because we’re really anal about what we keep and what we don’t. We’re not like other bands. We don’t go in with 20 songs and pick the best ones. We can barely get out of a room with the six of us agreeing, so, normally, to get 11 songs we all agree on takes two years.

“[This record's] about the last two years of my life,” Chamberlain continued. “The rough times, the good times. You know, our band almost broke up, and I had some issues with substance abuse — all kinds of things. Just real life and how I dealt with things. It’s definitely some of the darkest [stuff we've done], but that doesn’t mean I’m always totally desperate. It’s a pretty desperate record.”

The six songs we heard — still carrying working titles like “Viper,” “Elephant” and “Jam” — were, for the most part, furiously paced, with lots of layers and almost Nine Inch Nails-esque spooky electronic effects. Several of the songs were anthemic, feedback-filled numbers that build slowly to their thunderous, ear-splitting crescendos, and there were breakdowns aplenty. Chamberlain’s vocals are intense, passionate and sounding better than ever over the shredding guitars. Aaron Gillespie’s adroit drum-pummeling adds even more fury and force to the tracks, which are sprinkled with blistering, steely guitar solos. The songs — which, at times, stop and start on a dime effortlessly — sounded huge and unpredictable, never really heading in those directions you might expect. It’s also clear that the band wanted to experiment this time around, injecting almost prog-like elements here and there.

“You’ve got to step it up every time,” Chamberlain explained. “That was the key. This is the first record [we started working on] where we haven’t completely hated what we did before. From [2002's] The Changing of Times to [2004's] They’re Only Chasing Safety, we hated it. So we changed, and then, by the time Chasing came out, we hated that too. Then we wrote Define the Great Line, and I feel like this record’s kind of similar to that. I was worried, at first, but I think we took it and stepped it up a lot. It’s the same style — we didn’t completely change who we are. But we had to push each other, raise the bar and experiment and explore things we haven’t done before. This is our band, and this record — this is our sound.”

Underoath, who are releasing their Survive, Kaleidoscope live CD/DVD May 27, are looking forward to previewing the new material for their fans this summer when they head out with Disturbed, Slipknot, Mastodon, DragonForce, Airborne, Five Finger Death Punch, 36 Crazyfists, Machine Head, Black Tide, Suicide Silence, the Red Chord and Walls of Jericho on the inaugural Rockstar Energy Mayhem festival .

“It’s cool for us to do at least once,” Chamberlain said. “We’ve done Warped Tour so many times, and we love Warped. I think the shows on Warped, for us, are incredible. But for this record, we wanted to expand musically and lyrically and push ourselves. So why not push ourselves into a market where some may not know about us? Why not play to Slipknot fans — fans that may not like us, and maybe, if they heard us, would? On Warped, we know what’s going to happen: Our fans are going to be there. With this, there will be a lot of people who haven’t heard us, so it’s something totally new for us.”

The rest of the week’s metal news:

As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis has launched a new side project, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired Austrian Death Machine. The band’s debut disc, Total Brutal, will land July 22, and feature 17 songs, including “I Am a Cybernetic Organism, Living Tissue Over (Metal) Endoskeleton,” “Who Is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do?” and “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It.” According to Lambesis, Arnold “is the embodiment of everything brutal and stereotypically metal.” …

Barely legal metallers Black Tide played a free gig on May 15 at the Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood during a release party for James Frey’s book “Bright Shiny Morning.” But things didn’t go so well. According to the New York Post, there were a number of scuffles with security during the band’s set, and “literary types were horrified as the brawl spilled out to the sidewalk, where it took 20 cops to quell the violence. Three men were arrested.” …

Pantera/ Hellyeah kitman Vinnie Paul has been tapped by Connecticut hardcore heroes Hatebreed to produce, document and record the band’s May 27 gig in Dallas for a CD/DVD set. “We can’t even begin to explain how excited we are to be recording our live album with Vinnie Paul,” Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta commented. “It’s a great honor and privilege to be working with him on this.” … Soulfly plan on releasing two editions of their forthcoming album Conquer on July 29. One will be the standard version, while the other will be a special edition with three bonus cuts: “My Path,” a cover of Bad Brains’ “Sailin’ On” and a rendition of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” …

The lineup for this year’s Trash and Burn Tour has been revealed. The tour, which kicks off July 29 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will feature Darkest Hour, Misery Signals, Winds of Plague, Stick to Your Guns, Arsis, Light This City and Arsonists Get All the Girls. Dates are booked through September 3 in Seattle. …

Lamb of God‘s upcoming two-DVD set, “Walk With Me in Hell,” has been plotted for a July 1 release. The effort will contain footage captured during the band’s recent appearances on Ozzfest, the Gigantour and the Unholy Alliance runs. … Strapping Young Lad‘s upcoming CD/DVD best-of collection, titled 1994-2006 Chaos Years, will hit stores May 27. Band mastermind Devin Townsend remastered 17 of the band’s tracks — including “Detox,” “Love?” and “All Hail the New Flesh” — for the offering. …

Danish death-metal act Compos Mentis have been working on material for their next LP, which they’ll start tracking June 23 with Christian Bonde. Lyrically, the band said the disc will “be centered around the parish pump and different moments in Danish history, as well as various aspects of a ‘typical’ Danish mentality.”