Review Summary: A fine showing from the masters of the genre.
I’ll be frank - I can’t stand a lot of the new wave of American metal, or metalcore, or whatever it is - I have nothing against the bands that try to move out of this hole, such as Mastodon and Lamb Of God, bands who have a desire to move away from it all. And I also have nothing against bands like Unearth either, who stick to the formula, yet are so damn good that they make the rest of the crowd look garage bands who don’t know an original piece of music from their backsides.
In The Eyes of Fire
is nothing original, in all honesty - trying to get something new out of metalcore groups means they have to move away from the formula, or continue churning out similar albums. Unearth chose the latter, have gone from strength to strength over the course of three albums, and the result is what may possibly be the finest metalcore release of all time. Yes, I mean this album.
A few listens should confirm this to anyone who has listened to the dirge festival that was, is, and has made up the majority of the scene - it may retain the very basic hallmarks of what made past Unearth albums good, but now instead of tiptoeing carefully, it now strides along, as each song is confident, fully fleshed out, and appears to be full of the controlled vim and vigour that really could have stopped all derision against the likes of As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage and Atreyu.
What really puts Unearth in a different light altogether is the simple fact that they realise speed doesn’t count for everything, as although every song features the usual searing riffs, Unearth know that songs can be more effective when all it takes is a reduced beats-per-minute quota. There’s also the usual breakdown parts that feature in a lot of NWAOHM songs; when Avenged Sevenfold used breakdowns on their early metal albums, it usually sounded slotted in in a hopeless attempt to make the song sound more interesting than it actually is. When Unearth have a typical breakdown moment, it doesn’t try and change course for the par of the song - rather, it just makes sure than it isn’t the same simple boring ride all the way through.
There’s also the fact that they have ensured that every song here is an absolute killer. There’s not a bad track on the whole album, and although not every track is glistening with excellent lyrics, they’re one of the better examples of the genre.
And this is part of what makes Unearth one of the few metalcore bands I listen to (the others being 36 Crazyfists, Shadows Fall, Converge, As I Lay Dying and early Killswitch Engage). They don’t start off with boring filler; who wants that? No, they send you straight in with one of their best ever tracks, This Glorious Nightmare
, and what I noted before about how they’ve managed to master the power of their rhythm - it’s much more enjoyable and fresh to listen to a band that knows that more sporadic riffing can help the song, rather than turning the guitars into a constant buzz in order to keep the speed going.
The album continues from strength to strength - Sanctity Of Brothers
threatens to crush you with those heavy yet smooth crunching guitar lines; This Time Was Mine
features a distinct connection between both instruments and vocals, where Unearth have almost created a track in which the music couldn’t work without the vocals, or vice versa; Giles
grants the wish of those who just want to bang their head to something loud; and So It Goes
features some hefty yet carefully-processed stop-start double bass drumming and yet more wizardry from those six-stringers, Ken Susi and Buz McGrath.
This review may seem short, and I admit it’s simply because there is a lack of things to say about it. What more can be unearthed (excuse the pun) from an album that, despite being of a high quality, features tracks that tread the same ground as the tracks before it, both on this album and on The Stings Of Conscience
and The Oncoming Storm
? There’s no getting around the fact that despite the efforts made by Unearth to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd, ultimately, this is still metalcore, albeit metalcore at it’s very best. Ultimately, there are flaws - such as Jon Maggard’s bass never being heard, and it’s all about the guitars; but the nice little touches, like the variations in singing by Trevor Phipps and the fact that Mike Justain’s drumming amounts to more than just double bass, make this stand out from the crowd. If you don’t like this album, it’s unlikely you’ll like metalcore.
Metalcore at its very finest
- This Glorious Nightmare
- March of the Mutes
- Sanctity of Brothers
- So It Goes
- Bled Dry