It’s been 4 long years since “Watchers of the Rule” saw Unearth show us some Slayer influence and announce Nick Pierce as their full time drummer. In that time we’ve seen a few playthrough videos and gear demos from guitarists Ken Susi and Buzz McGrath but the band had otherwise remained largely silent. Until the announcement they would be appearing on the final incarnation of the Vans Warped Tour, signing to Century Media and single “Incinerate” appearing! That was at the start of the summer so to have an album and European tour announcement pre-Christmas was also something of a surprise from the Boston Massachusetts Metalcore quintet.
“Incinerate” starts things off in classical Metalcore fashion and features a wonderful sweep picking section and lead flourishes that demonstrate that the band are not only back, but back in form. The initial vocals from Trevor Phipps are a little strained but improve as the track runs through. An obvious choice as a lead single. “Dust” continues that modern Metalcore vibe with the same classical lead flourishes lifting everything, while a big breakdown section with a chant “I’m closer to Hell” that lifts into a fantastic guitar solo will no doubt be a live favourite. Nick Pierce’s drum sound also benefitted from some excellent production work from the legendary Will Putney. “Survivalist” is one that perhaps shows the influence of former TheAcaciaStrain Guitarist Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz in the recording sessions more than most. He’d been in the studio helping out by bouncing riff ideas with Unearth guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi. While there are some classic Unearth building leads there are also plenty of heavier elements and the final big breakdown with screams of “Erase the horror” are classic DL, though interestingly this is one he doesn’t receive a writing credit for.
“Cultivation of Infection” starts with a melodic dark atmospheric opening before smashing into the riff attack. Phipps brings some of the heaviest vocals we’ve heard in a long time in places and Chris O’Toole brings some tasteful basslines. It’s a song that has a nice rise and fall, striking a fine balance between the heavy and the melodic and it’s also one which grows on multiple listens. “The Hunt Begins” has a pummelling start with some of the bands most effective heavier breakdown riffs before picking up for a lead flourish and back down once again. The vocals are again a step up, while using spacing to allow the music to allow the music plenty of breathing room. It’s a classic Unearth trait and it’s wonderful that they’ve maintained it and built on their core sound. “Hard Lined Downfall” opens up like you would want a Slipknot track to. Some buried electronics under a brutal riff compilation with some pounding drum work and vicious uncleans before building into a relentless barrage of riffage and some classic unclean Vs clean play off vocals. If this song appeared on a Slipknot album, no-one would be unhappy. That’s how close it is to that trademark sound. There is no doubt that Will Putney having worked with Vein along similar lines has given the song an edge.
“King of the Arctic” is another one that builds a dark and eerie atmosphere with its pallet cleansing melodic opening. It’s a short and sweet start before the big slow riffage and pummelling drum work come into play for the opening verse. It’s a powerhouse tune that takes all of the elements previously showcased on the album in terms of musicianship and throws them all into a single melting pot of a tune. If you can’t head bang to this one, then there is something wrong with you. “Sidewinder” is another step up in the heaviness steaks with a brutal riff and a relentlessness to it that is stunningly good. The atmospheric spoken word section is fitting and dark in a way which we’ve not heard from Unearth in the past but works incredibly well. “No Reprisal” takes us back to the classical Metalcore cathedral-esq guitars and early 2004 stylings for a play on Melody that is bouncier than most as well as bing something of a modern take on a nostalgic sound. Having KillswitchEngage guitarist and producer Adam Dutkiewicz record the albums drum work was a master stroke. “One With The Sun” was the final pre-release single and closes the album out in suitably heavy fashion. There is no letup in quality here. No closing throw away tune or piece of balladry that even the band cringe about. Instead, the song is a to the point and on point riff fest that showcases all the elements that make Unearth the Modern Metalcore band that they are. Randy Slaugh brings strings and piano arrangements that lift things to a new height.
There was a time when we genuinely throught Unearth might not return. Four years is a long time in anyone’s play book and while there has been plenty of love for a band that brought us classics like “Black Hearts Now Reign”, the longer it was left, the less likely it seems. After all, short lived returns from bands like Throwdown and It Dies Today of that same era been and gone in that same time. Fortunately Unearth have not only brought their A game but utilized the talents of Will Putney, Adam Dutkiewicz and Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz to help bring some of their finest work to the table. [8/10]