Tonight Alive Break New Barriers With ‘Underworld’ Album
Every band, no matter who they are, makes changes at some point in their careers. Whether it be a new genre, a new record label, or variations in members, there’s always something new going on in the music world. For Australian rockers Tonight Alive, big changes have already come their way less than two weeks into the new year. In Fall of 2017, the group announced the departure of long-time guitarist, Whakaio Taahi. Not long after that, their loyal fans were introduced to their fourth studio album, Underworld.
Straight off the bat, it was made clear that Tonight Alive are a renewed band. With the release of their first single, “Temple”, old fans and newcomers alike became familiar with the rejuvenated sound. There is a much edgier tone to the song, something previous albums didn’t necessarily have. Along with a fantastically gritty music video, “Temple” instantly wiggled its’ way into the hearts of many.
Unfortunately, this new sound didn’t exactly resonate positively with everyone. Simply because when band’s change things up, it doesn’t always sit well with all their fans. However, it’s become clear that even with the differences, Tonight Alive still have a staggeringly adoring fan base. This idea was cemented when, upon the arrival of their second single “Crack My Heart“, listeners fully accepted the fresh tones with nothing but adoration.
Now that the full album is available nationwide, it seems appropriate to completely delve into what makes Underworld so great. The record begins with a track called “Book Of Love”, the perfect introduction to such a freeing album. The words ‘If you don’t try, you’ll never know’ and ‘It’s never too late, they’re only testing our faith’ leave a wonderful impression on myself personally. Straight away, it’s easy to tell that Underworld is meant to inspire, and bring light to a whole new belief in ourselves.
The second track, “Temple”, has only briefly been examined above. As a way of further analyzing its’ depth, I must say that the song is like an anthem for those who feel unwanted in their own bodies. Those of us who have a deep disconnect within ourselves. Speaking as someone who has fought endlessly with myself on the feeling of never being good enough, I can’t help but have a strong connection with this song. I can hear the passion and hurt behind lead singer Jenna McDougall‘s voice, etched perfectly into each word.
The next track, “Disappear” featuring Lynn Gunn of Pvris, is a wonderfully sculpted anthem. In McDougall’s own words,
“Disappear is a song about the escapist inside all of us. As you can expect from Tonight Alive, the lyrics discuss freedom, but this time with a flavour of anonymity and detachment. Disappear was written with the intention of sounding neither like Pvris or Tonight Alive, and aimed to capture the sonic imagery of a long straight highway out of your comfort zone”.
I could not think of any better way to describe the song than that. Lyrics such as ‘Big dreams, but nobody wants them’, hits home in a major way. It all speaks to the level of want that we all have, a need to break free and become something bigger than ourselves. It sometimes becomes necessary to escape what keeps you grounded, and take on a whole new world of possibilities. “Disappear” is easily the kind of track you can play over and over again on a big road trip, one where you just don’t know where it might lead.
The track that follows is perfect for those of us who are the outcasts, the ones who may constantly feel out of place. More than anything however, “The Other” is a song for those same outcasts, who wouldn’t want to be any other way. It bleeds words of contentment with your own uniqueness, a breath of fresh air in a world where being different isn’t always celebrated. It is completely unapologetic. I was left wanting to listen again and again, no breaks involved.
The next song, “In My Dreams”, speaks to the level of hope that many of us feel, in terms of wanting a better world to live in. While there is plenty of beauty around is, it is all too often masked by bleak drama and negativity. The lyrics give off the impression that while change is not easy or quick, it is necessary to hold onto said hope that we still have. In my mind, this track echoes the idea that with time, it can get better. Even if you don’t see it as a song for worldly issues, maybe you’ll see it as a more personal reflection. If there are changes you need to make in your own life, maybe now is the time to see to it. That is the double message that I take from “In My Dreams”.
Next up is “For You”. Right away, I had a feeling that this one could be about the band, and how they feel for their loving fans. They speak on how they would do anything for them, even the seemingly impossible. All because at the end of the day, they remember that we are here for them, too. I love when bands speak out and let their fans know that the love and support we give, is always returned. “For You” is a beautiful way of revealing just that. Of course, this could also be a love song on its’ own, about that one person you’d die for. Either way you look at it, it’s a lovely way to express passion and gratitude.
Going back to “Crack My Heart”, I still find myself singing it over and over in my head. The strong vocals, beautifully harrowing words, and overall message of remaining strong have such a hold on my heart. I can feel every bit of pain behind the lyrics, as well as the underlying hope. I can definitely see why Tonight Alive chose “Crack My Heart” as a single, seeing as it is a wonderful way of introducing their re-developed sound. For me, the song gives back the edge to punk rock that it may have recently been lacking.
The catchy beat of the eighth track, “Just For Now”, had me instantly hooked. It seems this one is a way of saying ‘I’ll be okay, as long as I have you’. The “you” in question doesn’t even have to be a person. It could be music, art, whatever makes you feel alright. Even if just for a short while, this one thing makes you feel better when it is there.
Before I even started listening to the next track, “Burning On”, I just knew I would love it. Something about the title seemed to speak to me. So when I did start it, I was not proven wrong. “Burning On” is the kind of song that I feel as though I’ve been missing from my life. It speaks to a level of my psyche I didn’t even know I had. To know that someone else feels similar to me, is an incredible thing. In my mind, this track speaks to the pain of not knowing how things will end, but somehow learning to be okay with it. Once you start to accept that not everything needs explanation, you feel more free. In other words, no matter what happens in your life, you must keep going.
To start, my favorite lyrics from the next track, “Waiting For The End”, are as follows:
“And even if I fall, I’ll prove you wrong
‘Cause I am not afraid to live”.
If that’s not enough to make you fall in love with it, then I don’t really know how to further convince you. All I can say, is that if anyone knows how to make a song to prove that you are what you make of yourself, it’s definitely Tonight Alive.
With the eleventh song of the album, I got instant chills when Jenna started singing. “Last Light” made me think of a family member of mine that passed, who I think of everyday and see in so much of what I experience. I can’t pretend that I didn’t tear up towards the end of the song, especially when the words ‘I am forever changed. I’ll wait to see you again’ came up. This is the one song that I believe everyone has lost someone they love should listen to. It’s overall very healing, and I honestly couldn’t love it more if I tried.
Whether or not you have religious affiliations, the second to last song “Looking For Heaven” is a beautiful tribute. ‘Heaven’ looks different to everyone, and so this track further proves that what I see as ultimate paradise, may not be what you see. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean a place you go after you die. Your heaven could be anything. A place to live, a family, a career… Whatever the case may be, it is your heaven and no one can take that from you. What I get from “Looking For Heaven” is just that.
Lastly, Underworld ends with “My Underworld” featuring Corey Taylor. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the prospect of a Tonight Alive and Corey Taylor collaboration. When I finally heard it, I was far from disappointed. The combination of Jenna and Corey’s voices is everything I could’ve ever dreamed of, and more. The song itself screams of self-acceptance, no matter how dark things may seem, or how many demons you carry. I couldn’t help smiling the entire time I was listening. The whole song is beautifully crafted, and I sincerely wish it lasted just a bit longer.
To end, I just have to say that this record gives off a vibe consistent with late 90’s punk rock. With a strong female lead like Jenna McDougall, it’s hard not to become addicted. I have no doubt that Underworld will be one of my favorite albums of all time.
As of Friday, January 12th, 2018, Underworld is available on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Tonight Alive’s official store. To add to the excitement, the band will be making their return to the United States for a co-headlining tour with Silverstein! The Get Free Tour will kick-off on January 19th in Cleveland, Ohio. From there, they will travel to cities all across the US, ending in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 1st. The two groups will also have support from Broadside and Picturesque. Tickets are currently on sale for all dates, found on Tonight Alive’s website.