Whatever the view of the band’s previous album The March, which was mixed at best, Massachusetts metalers Unearth are back on form with their fifth album Darkness In The Light via Metal Blade Records. To say the band is fired up on the release is an understatement of the highest degree, the quintet do not just break the doors down they obliterate them with a challenging intensity and enthusiasm that few if any have touched this year so far.
Unearth are veterans of sorts having delivered their metalcore ferocity since the late nineties but on Darkness In The Light there is freshness and vitality that puts some of the young newcomers to shame. The album may not be breaking down old and setting up new boundaries but it certainly leaves a trail of satisfaction and immense enjoyment in its wake. The eleven tracks that flex their muscles within the release are well written and perfectly realised by the Boston quintet, and produced with clarity and understanding by once again returning producer Adam Dutkiewicz, the Killswitch Engage guitarist. He and the band have a unity in knowing what is needed and how to achieve it that is nine times out of ten spot on, and on Darkness In The Light 11 out of 11.
An aspect of the album which helps gives it an air of warlike attitude is the bringing in of long time friend and Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley for the release to replace the departing Derek Kerswill. The split was amicable and as guitarist Buz McGrath explains “Derek is an amazing drummer, and we’re still good friends, but his style wasn’t what we were looking for on the new record. He’s more of a rock guy than a metal guy, and we wanted something a bit more extreme,”, ands he continues in reference to Foley, “I think he slips under the radar a little bit as far as drummers go but he’s an outstanding technical drummer,”. After the release of Darkness In The Light that recognition should soar as he is impressive to say the least and alongside the other members of Unearth is a perfect and effective fit.
‘Watch It Burn’ opens up the onslaught, it is stark, aggressive, and hits like a machine gun attack. Political, powerful, and direct it is a dynamic start to the album, the smooth blend of melodies and supporting vocals from Ken Susi a great contrast and compliment to the harsh, grating, powerhouse vocals of Trevor Phipps. The guitars of Suzi and Mcgrath flow majestically whether in the creative melodic turns or the riff churning wall of noise, and with the resonating bass power of John Maggard, it is a track laying down an immediate statement of intent for what is to follow.
What follows throughout Darkness In The Light is some of the best metal heard this year so far but particularly so on a number of the tracks, songs that show Unearth still lead the way for others to follow. ‘Shadows Of The Light’, ‘Coming Of The Dark’, and ‘The Fallen’ all ride the wave of creativity and inspiration, their crushing onslaught of heavy urgent riffs and melodic surgical strikes are soul feeding. The one track that towers over all though is the deeply personal ‘Last Wish’. Striding, rampant and flesh melting, it is a giant wall of metal and to be honest would have made a far better single than the band’s choice ‘Eyes Of Black’ from the album.
There is also one moment of the album that works beautifully though whether intentionally would have to be asked of the band. The incoming explosion of ‘Arise The War Cry’ is a defiant, aggressive call to arms and plays like a battlefield with Phipps standing centre and confrontational as bullet like riffs fly overhead, his intense vocals direct to the skull, his venom dripping from the ear. What is so effective is the placing of the following track ‘Equinox’, a song that is sombre, again seemingly personal, and though unconnected brings a tone and imagery of the aftermath from the battle waged right before it, the hopelessness felt as the dust settles.
Darkness In The Light is a brutal, inventive and totally satisfying album showing that not only are Unearth back but they are better than ever.
Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011