Christian metal band Underoath eye chart glory

By | September 2, 2008 at 2:06 AM

The biggest metalcore band in the land happens to be a Christian sextet that, for a second time, is primed to crash into the upper echelons of the Billboard  200.

Underoath will on Tuesday release its fourth album, “Lost in the Sound of Separation.” It’s the follow-up to 2006’s  “Define the Great Line,” which debuted at No. 2 without any significant radio play or mainstream push; it has sold 366,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Instead of the typical avenues of exposure, the Florida band has relied on a fierce, two-pronged model of touring and  Internet marketing.

“The other marketing — the press and the magazine covers  — those are definitely helpful,” manager Randy Nichols said.

“But more than anything it’s that fan-to-fan interaction that’s created online.”

Already fixtures on MySpace, the band set up a webcam for fans to follow the recording of “Separation.” Then, it went a step further: The band chatted with fans live whenever members had downtime and even held an impromptu interview with one of them, Nichols said.

For the six or so years the current lineup has been together, Underoath has toured with any band it could and forged a bond with fans that extends beyond a 30-minute set on a sweaty, multi-bill gig.

“We’ve built a more honest fan base, I think,” lead singer  Spencer Chamberlain said on the phone from one of the final stops of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival run.

That summer trek, headlined by Slipknot and Disturbed, and an upcoming fall jaunt with Saosin, the Devil Wears Prada and  P.O.S., typifies Underoath’s almost indiscriminate approach to choosing touring partners. It is a process the band describes as more relational than strategic or based on a belief system.

“I wouldn’t not hang out with you if you were an atheist or… hang out more with you if you were a Christian,” said  Chamberlain, who has a habit of giving shout-outs to Jesus onstage. “If you’re a cool dude, you’re a cool dude either way.”

“To me, the fact that they’re a Christian band makes no difference at all because every band should have a core set of beliefs,” added Nichols. “If they don’t have that, I’m not really interested in working with them — be it a Christian band, a Jewish band, a straight-edge band or whatever it may be.”

Given the parlous state of the music industry, the band’s  Tooth & Nail label says it may be unreasonable to expect the new album to match its predecessor’s lofty numbers.

But more conservative projections haven’t kept the label from trying new things, like making “Lost in the Sound of  Separation” available in four formats, including a deluxe  $89.99 box that includes a hard-bound 56-page book.

Other prerelease strategies included listening parties and presales at Hot Topic stores, 15 “lifetime show passes” hidden in the various versions of the new album, exclusive merchandise at Hurley and Paul Frank stores and a song placement in EA  Sports’ “Madden” franchise.

All of these strategies, Nichols said, are more about catering to a culture than a particular kind of music fan.

“It’s not just marketing to one retailer or one type of kid,” Nichols said. “It’s people who … are into a cool underground culture that we just want to tie into. It’s the same culture that the band is already fans of.”

Related Content