Listening to the colossal hammer blows that stand-in drummer Justin Foley (Killswitch Engage) manages to squeeze out, and hearing the combination of that with Trevor Phipps new-improved, throat-ripping vocals, you can fully understand why go-to producer Adam Dutkiewicz put the brutal, rhythmic onslaught first on his list of priorities. Yes, I did say “new-improved.” It turns out Phipps’ straight-up honesty knows no bounds – describing his efforts for 2008′s The March, he admits “…that’s probably my worst vocal performance… so this time I was like, fuck man, I really need to knuckle down.” The result is a relentless onslaught of absolute aggression, yet he still seems resistant to expand into lows and highs; stuck in that one-dimensional skin-stripping howl of his. That’s where Ken Susi’s lungs come in to play and here he offers more of the startlingly enigmatic cleans that he last showcased for 2006′s The Oncoming Storm.
One thing is for certain, this is without doubt the most instantly accessible Unearth album to date. The majority of song-titles form the core of the chorus, so singing along just won’t be an option this time around. The hooks are out of this world and the breakdowns are just fucking enormous – “Watch It Burn”, “Coming Of The Dark” and “The Fallen” are destined to create legendary pits. We haven’t heard gut-drops like this since “Endless” and “This Lying World” lit up The Oncoming Storm like a pair of open grenades bursting forth from a box of nails. “Arise The War Cry” is almost at Max Cavalera standards of neanderthal ferocity, whilst “Watch It Burn” builds up such a monstrous head of steam that when the cyclical lyric “Burn your eyes on the setting sun” kicks in you can only think of Hatebreed as being anything like this vitriolic.
The guitars, despite being left behind at times, still pile out these shafts of euphoric light. Onto the power metal speed solos, jagged shreds and skidding chord sequences, we can now pin swaggering swamp riffery, which comes in the form of southern-spiked groover “Eyes Of Black”. They stand out mainly where the tracks ache for them most of all – tracks such as “Overcome” and the intrusively personal “Last Wish” inspired by Phipps’ experiences of close friends ending up on life support – “This life soon will come to an end / I’ll leave with my convictions”.
It’s important that we hear Susi’s emotive cadence again. His uplifting input is particularly effective on tracks “Watch It Burn” and “Overcome”, though it would have been great to hear him on more. But, alas, Unearth want you pinned down where they can get at you. You want proof? Just tune in to the no-holds-barred lyrics on final track “Disillusion” – “Lies! You fucking failed me”. In fact, “Equinox” is their only surrender to a change of pace and even that refuses to lie down, as the tinkling piano suggests it might, the build instead giving Phipps the opportunity to turn it into a crushing monster – “There’s no way out, there’s no way out”, he yells showing the band’s clear intentions. He recently pointed out “There’s a bunch of bands out there that are all trying to get in the spotlight, so it’s a case of fight or die, and our fists are flying, man.” Using brute force will only get them so far, so they may have to start seeking a more cerebral method of attack in the near future. However, if it’s brawn you’re looking for, you’ve most certainly come to the right place.
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The full album stream is available here for a limited time.