Tonight Alive – ‘Underworld’

By Yasmin Brown

Following a short diversion from their signature pop-punk sound with 2016’s ‘Limitless’, Tonight Alive have made a swift U-turn and created an album that serves as a solid reminder of why we loved them so much in the first place.

Tonight Alive has powered through the turmoil that came with the recent and unexpected departure of co-writer and guitarist Whakaio Taahi, subsequently releasing one of their strongest albums to date. Each track takes the listener on a journey through the inner-most thoughts of front woman, Jenna McDougall, as she uses music as her outlet to publicly address what she believes to be the “ugliest” parts of herself for the first time.

Despite this self-professed ugliness, thematically the album actually doesn’t feel ugly at all. Instead, it explores a number of issues that most people are likely to face at some point during their lives, whether that be battling with our mental health, feeling like an outsider, basing our lives around the needs of someone else, or dealing with an apparent yearning for faith. ‘Underworld’ is sincere and honest; it’s a vulnerable openness that portrays Jenna in a more human light than fame usually allows for, making this Tonight Alive’s most real and relatable album to date.

Sonically, opening track ‘Book of Love’ doesn’t feel like too much of a departure from ‘Underworld’’s predecessor, un-apologetically screaming ‘power-pop’ right up until the chorus. It is during this chorus where you first get an idea of what to expect from the rest of the album, as the heavy riffs and the intense drum beat take over and fully submerge you in the track.

The epitome of this sensation occurs in lead single ‘Temple’, arguably the strongest track on the record both in terms of sound and lyrical content. The song seems to encompass the direction in which the band are heading with this new era, with riffs that showcase the talent that exists within this four piece, and vocals that provide further proof of Jenna’s incredible range and unique tones.

There are moments of excellence in every track, as each lyrical confession is accompanied by music that reflects the nature of the story being told. Whether that be the piano driven ‘Last Light’ or the heavier and angrier ‘Waiting For The End’; during which it becomes apparent that Jenna wants more from life than what so many other settle for. 

The album also excels when it comes to the choice of featured artists. The subtle addition of PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn throughout ‘Disappear’ adds stunning tones that perfectly compliment Jenna’s powerhouse voice, and Corey Taylor adds a welcome roughness to closing track ‘My Underworld’. Each adds a layer to their respective track without which would have left these songs feeling somewhat hollow and incomplete.

‘Underworld’ feels like a diary – a result of its sometimes brutal honesty and ability to immerse you in the mind of its creators. Where the magic truly lies, though, is in the way it allows you to feel validated for all of your unwanted emotions; for the anger, the dependence, the pain. This is undeniably Tonight Alive at their best.

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