Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
National treasures and warped-core scene heroes, Tonight Alive can be viewed as the voice of this Australian generation, particularly for young females with their captivating frontwoman Jenna McDougall. For those who were confused or concerned about the band with their latest tumultuous release, Limitless, don’t worry! Jenna explains that experience on this album, and spins it into one of the most moving anecdotes in recent pop-punk memory.
Released under independent label UNFD, Underworld is powered by liberation and realisation, and the connected feelings of personal healing, which is manifested through Jenna’s performance in both a passive or active manner. The release of Limitless cycle as a major label signee, coupled with McDougall’s battle with being directed to fit a certain female prototype in a mainstream rock band, are hit particularly hard throughout the album backboned by an uplifting tone of self-empowerment.
The band show dynamics with a multifaceted outlook on self-awakening, with Jenna’s free-spirited attitude asserting dominance in certain moments.
The lead single Temple is as catchy as a mid-2000’s Britney Spears song, but displays an agonising reflection on conflict with one’s physical appearance and dealing with the pain of maintaining a certain look that’s forced upon you. The driving, keyboard-heavy The Other is both musically and lyrically loud, dealing with a self-realisation moment of your unique qualities, subsequent to being forced into a more regular persona. This is conveyed head-on as Jenna passionately yells that certain people will ‘never know what it’s like to fight, to be the other’ over a fast-paced, building instrumental. Looking For Heaven is a piano ballad in which Jenna explains that the only way to find peace was to ‘roll her eyes to the back of her head’, as a means to escape the circumstance she was in.
The band show dynamics with a multifaceted outlook on self-awakening, with Jenna’s free-spirited attitude asserting dominance in certain moments. Crack My Heart describes a feeling of being able to lust after something again with your new self, with a monstrous vocal performance and lyrics that touch on craving having a strong partner aid you in breaking free. Burning On features one of the strongest choruses on the entire album and explosive synth-lead line, as Jenna uses love to outline feelings of immunity in this regained personal strength.
Musically, the band continue into the pop side of pop-punk, but this sound is more refined and realised here than it was on Limitless, proving that this direction is where Tonight Alive should be right now. Underworld is certainly their most eclectic, expanding beyond their pop-punk roots into the realms of alternative pop through watery synths, warm guitar tones and groovier rhythms. Tonight Alive execute this perfectly with powerful vocal melodies, and straightforward, well-groomed instrumentation to push Jenna’s messages to the top of the mix. There’s not much to be found for guitar riffs and drum fills, but Tonight Alive don’t plan to make that type of album again.
Underworld is a powerful statement elucidating the pain and insecurity stemmed from being forced to change. With sharp songwriting, this record is a detailed journal of Jenna’s personal development under the pressure of others, and it will resonate strongly with those who face internal anxiety from of external voices.
Underworld is out on January 12 through UNFD.