Tonight Alive’s 2016 record ‘Limitless’ surprised and polarised fans with its sharp turn away from the spiky pop-punk that made the Aussies famous, instead going down the route of impassioned but sugary rock ballads. Follow-up ‘Underworld’ is a little darker than that.
They’re working again with Dave Petrovic, who produced their 2013 album ‘The Other Side’, and immediately their reconnection with their roots shows. The opening “woh-ohs” of ‘Book Of Love’ suggest we’re picking off where ‘Limitless’ left off, but as soon as the guitars crash in for the chorus, it’s clear this is going to be meatier. ‘Temple’ – an ode to self-love and pulling yourself out of the fog of depression – aims to pack a punch, and its sentiment certainly does, but the lack of variation in melody stops it from being an anthem.
Latest single ‘Disappear’, which features PVRIS frontperson Lynn Gunn, should, on paper, be big: while both bands still fly just under the mainstream radar, they’re fronted by two of the alternative scene’s most genuine and relatable women, with a talent for turning personal anguish into understated lyrical poetry. The trouble here is it’s a little too understated, with an ambience that lacks anything to grab onto.
Second single ‘Crack My Heart’, though, is a different beast. It’s the seventh track on the album, and it’s around this point things begin to pick up. The chorus soars to arena-ready heights, using some of the power ballad sensibilities that drove ‘Limitless’, but sharpening them with raw determination.
‘Just For Now’ will resonate with anyone who’s navigated the perils of modern dating, and knows the heart-twisting mixture of pain and ecstasy that comes with a half-relationship with someone who won’t commit: “Maybe you can make it better / I don’t need forever / Just find me some heart,” implores Jenna McDougall, on this unexpected standout track. Perhaps most surprising is Corey Taylor’s feature slot on ‘My Underworld’, on which he reveals a seldom-seen soft side and a talent for Chad Kroeger-style throaty emotion.
‘Underworld’ might not reach every peak it aims for, but it tugs on the heartstrings in all the right ways.