After getting 'Lost in the Sound of Separation,' Christian metalcore act Underoath reaffirms its allegiance to a new sound 

Underoath with Blessthefall, To Speak of Wolves and Pay at the Pump
8 p.m. Friday
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S. Eastern

If you hadn't been paying attention, it might have seemed like Underoath emerged from nowhere. Although the success of 2004's gold-selling "They're Only Chasing Safety" was sudden, it was something the musicians had been building steadily toward since forming in high school in 1997.

The thundering Christian metalcore act underwent numerous lineup changes in that time, and spent years playing basements, VFW halls and bars where it was sometimes paid only in pizza. The group toured with nearly everyone in the scene " usually before the acts made it big " from My Chemical Romance and Every Time I Die to Atreyu and The Used.

"It feels like we've toured with more bands than we have not toured with," keyboardist Chris Dudley said.
When Underoath began in Ocala, Fla., the guys didn't have any grand ambitions " just a love of music.

"Kids will laugh and say, 'Well, what sort of tip can you give us to successful like you guys?' And I'm like, the biggest tip I can give you is, 'Don't do it to be successful, because you're going to quit long before anything happens,'" Dudley said. "If we were in this to do well or sell records or make money, we would've quit a long time ago."

He joined in time for Underoath's second album, 2000's "Cries of the Past." The follow-up, 2002's "The Changing of Times," sold better than the first two combined, and earned the band a spot on the Warped Tour.

The elation was short-lived. In the middle of touring, founding vocalist Dallas Taylor quit, forcing the act off the bill. A few months later, Underoath replaced him with Spencer Chamberlain, the former frontman of This Runs Through, and a one-time roommate of Dudley's. He arrived just in time for the recording of "Safety."

"When Spencer joined the band. we already had the direction we were going with Dallas," Dudley said. "We already had a bunch of demos and a bunch of songs, and he was kind of coming into an already-moving machine."

Not only was the album particularly catchy, moving away from Underoath's hardcore and metal antecedents in favor of stronger pop elements, but it was produced with a crisp polish that surprised even the band.

"We think it's awesome, but it didn't take long for us to start to be ready to have something else out," Dudley said, noting the label said another disc just like that would make the group huge. "We were like, 'Yeah, we probably could sell a lot of records, if we kept doing what we're doing, but we're not happy doing what we're doing, so we're going to do what we want to do.'"

The follow-up, 2006's "Define the Great Line," was noisier, with a nasty, visceral bite. While it still offered exultant, melodic moments, they're wrapped tight in knotty arrangements. It proved Underoath's best-charting album, also  certified gold. With 2008's "Lost in the Sound of Separation," it refined the formula while opening up a few more windows, and tempering the tempos.

With drummer Aaron Gillespie leaving in April, even more change was afoot, which Dudley described as a "breath of fresh air." Not only was Gillespie the final original member, but the last rope mooring the act to its older, emo-pop sound. The current members had nothing personal against Gillespie, but he preferred a stronger pop sensibility.

"Aaron's an awesome dude, but when it came to writing music, it was always kind of the five of us on one page, and him on another page, and there was a lot of compromising going on," Dudley said.

Expect to hear at least one song from the new album on Friday, probably the tentatively titled "Spazz." Underoath still has to mix the record, but Dudley's so excited by it " which he calls the finest thing the group has ever done " that he may give some lucky fans a sneak preview.

"I was actually thinking the other day, 'I'm going to bring a CD of this stuff on tour,'" he said. "I'll just bring kids on the bus and let them hear it. I want everyone to hear it." "Chris Parker

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