Review Summary: In The Eyes of Fire is almost everything that metalcore can and should be, but not without a couple glaring, obvious flaws.
Super fast snare drum hits bring in a wall of fast, brutal guitar, drums and bass. A voice un-relentlessly screams ”Divine intoxication spills out the bores / A self diluting fix that craves all the more / Destructive seasoned vet, full glass of sting”
. Seemingly out of nowhere, a blazing guitar lead makes a short yet impressive appearance and just as quickly, disappears. Briefly, the wall of sound slows down and breaking through the chaos, the voice asks “Will I last through this glorious nightmare?
” After slowing to a crawl the instruments come back in newfound ferocity amidst screams of ”Tear me down!!!”
. When the song is finished, the listener is left in awe of this 4 ½ minute musical experience, with only a few seconds before the next awesome song will begin.
This, people, is basically everything unadulterated; straight up metalcore can and should be: a blissful assault on the eardrums. This is the opening song to what is easily one of the greatest albums in its genre, one that’s basically perfect compared to its musical peers. This is Unearth, and their latest album III: In the Eyes of Fire
Now if for some reason you’re not familiar with the metalcore genre, let me try and give an adequate description. Like most other metal subgenres, the main aspect of its sound is fast, heavy, and distorted guitars backed by the rhythm section of bass and drums. Where it differs is that a huge portion of the vocals are screamed. Also, an integral part of the sound is brutal breakdowns, characterized by very heavy guitar riffs and screaming, usually found in the second half of a song.
It has become somewhat of a trend in the last 6 or so years for metalcore bands to incorporate melody into their sound by way of screamed verses and cleanly sung choruses. A few of the top bands in this genre do this (Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, etc.) and several have incorporated more melody as they hone their craft. But just as many metalcore bands remain “true” to the genre, and deliver un-relentlessly heavy songs, not putting that much emphasis on melody. Unearth certainly belongs in the latter camp. Like most bands, the breakdowns are an integral part of the music, but unlike some metal bands that include them just because they want to sound impressive or because they feel they have to, Unearth’s breakdowns are something that just needs to be in most of the songs. Listening to them, you know that the music wouldn’t have nearly the overall effect without them.
Like almost any metal album, the highlight of this album is the twin guitar team of Ken Susi and Buz McGrath. Every song is filled with riff after fantastic riff, with the two of them also pulling out tons of fantastic lead parts as well. Like other great guitarists, they know that sounding good is not just insanely fast fretboard melting and technical riffs, and so there are slower parts as well – the intro to March of the Mutes
and closing instrumental Big Bear and the Hour of Chaos
being prime examples. As a guitarist, I always appreciate when someone with mediocre skill (such as myself) is quite unable to play a band’s riffs, and here is no exception. Guitar-wise, this band is basically perfect.
Now let’s not forget the drums and vocals, though. Trevor Phipps’ scream is by no means one of the best in the genre, but he’s still good and fits perfectly with the sound. His voice has this great raw quality to it that’s hard to describe, and as a vocalist he’s improved from the previous release, albeit not very much. The singing that made short appearances before is now gone, and it works in their favor. And one can’t overlook the lyrics, though being hard to understand at times, they only add to the feeling of power one gets from each listen.
Drummer Mike Justian is likewise not one I would pick as one the best out there, but make no mistake, he’s not bad at all. Most of the time, he’s playing an effective but generic fast beat behind the guitars, but there all also plenty of awesome fills and quick rolls. He knows when to use double bass and doesn’t rely on it all the time, pulling the most effect out of his instrument.
Now like any album, there are downsides. One can hardly hear the bass behind the guitar and drums, and since nearly every second is filled with guitar there’s no opportunity to hear him and drummer Justian breathe on their own. The major problem that plagues metal in general is monotony, and here is no exception. Listening to each song for the first few times, there’s nothing that really separates them from each other at all. You’ll get the sense that you’re listening to the same song 10 times, but there are some subtle differences. Although, why change it when it works? This isn’t a huge detractor.
But the biggest problem I have with this is that too many of the guitar riffs consist of uncreative palm-muting. Way too many of the breakdowns consist of simple, down-tuned peddling of the bottom strings. With all the great riffs here, why can’t the guitarists come up some better riffs for the breakdowns, especially since they’re so important to each song? I understand they want to be brutal, but surely they could do so with an interesting lead part as well. In light of all the other riffs, however, this fault isn't a big detractor either.
The bottom line: this album consists of basically everything metalcore should be, and is easily one of the best from the genre (much less metal in general). It’s brutal, heavy, and well-constructed, but certainly not the flawless classic people would have you believe.
This Glorious Nightmare
Sancity of Brothers
So it Goes
Big Bear and the Hour of Chaos