Tonight Alive seem to have a hard time deciding just what sound they want to make. They went from their pop-punk beginnings on What Are You So Scared Of?, to a perfect take down of gritty, hard-rock on sophomore album The Other Side. However they have stumbled on the way, last album Limitless wasn’t received as warmly as the band seemed to have hoped, with what the band wanting to achieve being somewhat confused.
With fourth album Underworld, the band find their feet again, combining the elements of their last two records. Keeping to heart the brutally honest and introspective lyrical craft of vocalist Jenna McDougall, Underworld sees some of the band’s most anthemic and honest material to date. Like Limitless, the band depart from their punkier and rockier roots in terms of the record’s core identity, yet they keep plenty of stormy and brooding guitar parts woven brilliantly throughout. Ballads and pop melodies run riot throughout the album’s track-list, and where some fans found Limitless’ departure from the band’s original sound to be stale, Underworld solidifies that Tonight Alive can easily conquer a tamer sound too.
That being said, rockier numbers like Temple, Book of Love and Crack My Heart are clear signs of evolution on the band’s former sounds, mixed in with McDougall’s beautifully soulful vocal abilities and chart friendly, sing-along choruses. The album is sure to be a bridge between those divided over Tonight Alive’s prior struggles to grasp a majority of the rock or pop crowd. Yet Underworld does have its rough patches, with some songs lacking both the energy and passion Tonight Alive so masterfully incorporate into their sound, while these song’s aren’t examples of poor song writing for performance, they don’t mold with the album and seem to stall it in parts.
McDougall’s lyrics have always been very personal and close to her heart, and for that reason the band have never struggled to be relatable. Combined with the equally emotive instrumental mix on Underworld, you get a record that creates a sense of catharsis for the band; they’ve put plenty of hard work in from their explosion into the scene, and have now patched together their experiences in both the music industry and their own personal lives to create a real and heartwarming work of art.
The band’s final track may interest some due to the feature of Slipknot and Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor, but this is eclipsed by McDougall’s other duet, with PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn
, the melancholy nineties drenched rock ballad, Disappear. With the vocalists of two of the biggest female fronted pop rock bands joining up for one of Underworld’s stand out tracks. It has all the hallmarks of what make Tonight Alive great, it’s wonderfully driven by the bands guitar work, and doesn’t just revolve around their rockier persona, but fades away and comes back just more anthemic and emotive than it starts.
Underworld is released January 12th on UNFD records and will be Tonight Alive’s fourth Studio album.