2018 marks ten years since Tonight Alive formed, and they’re kicking off the celebrations with the release of fourth album Underworld.
Their first album since being signed to Hopeless Records and parting ways with lead guitarist Whakaio Taahi, it’s also their strongest release to date: the product of a band who are taking their sound in an entirely new direction.
Towards the end of opening track Book of Love it becomes apparent that this album is far heavier than anything found on 2016’s Limitless. Throughout the album, that fact is undeniable.
From the violent breakdown at the climax of Crack My Heart – reminiscent of the likes of Highly Suspect and Deftones – to the appearance of Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor on the closing track, Tonight Alive aren’t just flirting with a rockier sound, they’re committed to delivering it.
That’s not to say that there aren’t tender moments, too. The band are known for writing emotionally evocative ballads, and Last Light and For You are strong contenders to become the next Safe and Sound (a strong fan favourite from 2011 debut What Are You So Scared Of?).
However, the lyrics of both are disappointingly generic, meaning the tracks are ultimately skippable.
Another surprisingly forgettable moment is Disappear featuring PVRIS frontwoman Lynn Gunn. Unfortunately, Gunn doesn’t appear until the second chorus and is then quickly relegated to backing vocals.
Gunn’s voice complements Jenna McDougall’s, but she performs her signature woah-oh’s without energy and doesn’t bring anything to the track. It’s an unnecessary appearance which causes the song to sound too much like Heaven by Gunn’s own band.
However, those are the only disappointing moments out of the 13 tracks on the album.
Aforementioned closer Underworld is one of the greatest collaborations to come out of the scene, Taylor and McDougall’s voices working together in a surprisingly perfect way.
Piano-ballad Looking for Heaven showcases the full range of McDougall’s vocal as she hits high notes that were yet to appear in the band’s back catalogue.
Then there’s lead single Temple, which starts off slowly, kicks things up a notch in the chorus and builds to a venomous bridge that shows a previously unexplored dark side.
McDougall has never been afraid to talk about her personal struggles, publicly waging battles against both eczema and bulimia. This open nature is fully exposed in the chorus as she begs, “Help me please I could not be more desperate/My body is a temple/Tell me why it hurts like/Why it hurts like hell”.
Tonight Alive have built a cult-like following, and that’s primarily due to the band constantly striving to create a welcoming environment to those of all backgrounds.
Screaming, “I will not apologise/or lie for who I am” in The Other, McDougall’s unapologetic nature is exactly why she’s an inspiration to so many. With the release of Underworld, the respect and love directed towards the Australian quartet is about to grow out of control.