Beautiful transcended vocals and wonderful lyricism intertwine on Underworld, as Australian band Tonight Alive flex their musical muscles, and in doing so go beyond the typical pop punk formula. Lead singer/songwriter Jenna McDougall sings fearlessly, spreading her arms like wings resisting against the incoming tide of scepticism and scrutiny. She’s on fire, shooting her mouth off like a gun, orchestrating a wave of energy.
She’s a live-wire, a firecracker, a girl who has let free her cluttered mind. She has bundled together words of pessimism, little notes of a planned resurgence. And Tonight Alive as a collective are in love with what they do. They think differently, and that’s why the music sounds polished and triumphant. And perfecting a muse, an idea can be a complex procedure. But, on the evidence of Underworld, confidence and productivity is second nature. Their minds are filled with knowledge and sincerity. They press and push forward for answers, they prod the underbelly of empathy.
It’s the way those lyrics bind. It’s the way they keep us thinking. Yes, on prior records Tonight Alive excelled by placing together fiery sequences of broken lust, but on Underworld the band have drawn a different sketch completely; they’ve escaped the clutches of clichés. That’s not to say that previous albums like 2013’s Other Side was in any way lacklustre or badly put together. It certainly wasn’t; it was a pop punk blockbuster. But, Underworld is an upgrade, an album describing hardship and consequence, an opus perfectly refined.
There’s an abundance of emotional twists and turns on Underworld. ‘Temple’ is a guitar driven track which showcases McDougall’s brilliant vocal range. She sings about her body being a temple but she’s suffering from insecurities too; ‘I’m intoxicated by my depression/and I’m consumed by the fear.’
‘In My Dreams’ is a subtle track, in which McDougall prays for answers; she’s also railing against alienation ‘I feel so alien in the place that I call home/there’s something radiant pulls me into your soul.’
‘Burning On’ begins with a pleasing riff. McDougall bellows out here, letting her voice rattle and her mind fire words of venom: ‘You have spent your life avoiding pain/but beauty lies in that which is not safe/can’t you feel it?’ – she seems to have let loose her pain and misconstrued feelings on this razor-sharp track.
‘Looking For Heaven’ is enchanting and shows off McDougall’s excellent vocals. She’s looking for heaven, but she’s pondering over her own tarnished thoughts: ‘My eyes roll back inside my head/I bet you wonder what I see up there’, while the snippet of piano adds bite and melody.
Tonight Alive have pushed their music to the limit. Underworld is a step up musically and lyrically.
Underworld is out now on Hopeless Records.