In 2016 Tonight Alive released Limitless, an album that definitely has a few honorable mentions, but really never felt deeply and truly like Tonight Alive.
Now, in 2018, they’ve broken free from those chains. This is a complete and honest representation of who they are. Yet without becoming immersed in the darkness that came about from that album, there was no way these artists could shed their light on Underworld.
Punching drums, otherworldly backing vocals, and hypnotic guitar rhythms create a soundscape that is an “underworld” full of self discovery. “Book of Love” entices the listener, drawing them into this world with Jenna McDougall’s alluring vocals. Only to be brought into this harsh reality by hard hitting drums (provided by Matt Best), equally matching guitars (provided by Jake Hardy and Cameron Adler), and the words “They won’t find us in the book of Love.” However, the heart of this song is encouraging the listener to surrender in order to become their best and higher self: “It’s time to leave the world behind, and listen to your heart. It’s time to break free.”
The album’s second track, Temple, really grabs the listener to bring them right down to the darkest depths of the Underworld. One of the heavier tracks, and the lead single, the edgy guitar riffs and quick biting chorus amp up the angst as well as honesty. Born out of a time where McDougall was really struggling with depression, this song serves to question and explore why our bodies and minds retreat to this state.
“Just For Now” continues with the exploration of darkness as she cries out “I don’t need my body / if this pain is endless, how can I live?” This song is one of the album’s standout tracks as it really embodies McDougall’s progress as an incredibly strong vocalist. She displays profound emotions to show how much pain she was in. From that pain, inspired the need to demand love. Another stand out track is “The Other” as McDougall questions who she really is: “I always knew that I was different, ‘cause I see a woman in the mirror but she’s not in my reflection.” From there, she is able to find the power within herself and her confidence to live her life as her truest self: “Now that I’m dancing with my demons and making everybody nervous, I have to walk the path in front of me, cause I’m not one for following and I will not apologize or lie for who I am.”
Adding a special touch on this album are the chosen collaborations. Lynn Gunn adds a haunting duality to Disappear. Her hypotic tone and ethereal backing vocals really enhance the song’s message that it’s necessary to “dive in the deep end” of this shadowy underworld. The albums closing track, aptly titled “My Underworld,” features Slip Knots’ Corey Taylor. It’s unexpected for these two to collaborate, but it works. Taylor’s raspy vocals adds an extra dynamic and emotional tenor. Here, the duality between dark and light is fully represented. This song works as a conclusive end to this body of work by McDougall admitting absolute readiness and acceptance to “dive into her Underworld.”
Tonight Alive are a force to be reckoned with as they set to push back against, not only societal norms, but the norms that have been pre-programmed into us all as a collective. While McDougall’s lyrics propel us forward into a state where it’s completely okay to embellish our darker aspects (aka our shadow self), Adler, Best, and Hardy are driving us as listeners forward to genuinely feel as if we are in an Underworld through their creation of this album’s soundscape. The messages that Underworld brings us all is honest, pure, and full of intent. They are incredibly important during these times as we are all trying to become more accepting of every single aspect of ourselves. If Tonight Alive’s aim with this record is to inspire people and continue on their journey to push the boundaries of the music industry, then they are well on their to hit directly on the mark. Underworld drops this Friday, January 12 and is available for preorder here.
“Crack My Heart”
“Waiting For The End”
Review by Leah Dickerman