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Metalcore is definitely seen as the AIDS of the metal community for a lot of people, and it's quite easy to see why. A genre loaded with generic, boring, and "emo" bands, metalcore sits alongside nu metal and it's younger brother deathcore as one of the most hated sub-genres of metal. Reasons for this include, but are not limited to, the breakdowns, whiny lyrics, and an emphasis on style and personal appearance over the quality of the actual music. Unearth isn't a band talked about as much when discussing the genre. In fact, in my opinion, they are one of the better bands the genre has to offer. "Darkness in the Light" is the band's fifth full-length album and was released in 2011. This is their best album and really, for me, the only other albums to come close to this are "The Oncoming Storm" and "III: In the Eyes of Fire". The other three albums are also decent but I will take "Darkness in the Light" as their magnum opus.
This album doesn't really bring too much to the table that we haven't experienced with Unearth before. It is a very well-produced modern metal album. The guitars are loud and extremely clear, clean, and heavy. In terms of melodies and general catchiness, this album is quite an upgrade from anything the bands had done previously. Every song contains riffs from what can be described as the "Holy Book of Swedish melodic death metal". The Gothenburg influence throughout the nearly 40-minute album is extremely clear. If it wasn't for the work of At the Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity, metalcore would not exist as we know it. This is both a good and bad thing. The good aspect of metalcore is the evident mix of melodic death metal. However, the bad aspect lies again with the laughable image and personality of a lot of the bands, as well as the controversial breakdowns. This band is no stranger to using breakdowns and, on this album, they continue this tradition. At certain times, these breakdowns add a lot of inconsistency. Songs like "Watch it Burn", "Ruination of the Lost", and "Eyes of Black" are extremely good tracks with loads of melody, and the latter two even containing some impressive guitar solos. These melodic riffs are unfortunately interrupted at times with these chugging breakdowns that are extremely predictable but somewhat awkward in nature. Thankfully, the otherwise highly effective music helps minimize the effect of these breakdowns. One of my personal favorites on this album is "The Fallen". It's not really different from any of the other songs with its melodic riffs and standard solo, but the riffs are very catchy and memorable, and the solo is effectively followed with a clean passage that really breaks up the chaos quite well. I just wish there was a bit more variation because on the first or second listen, these songs do all sound fairly similar.
I've never been a huge fan of Trevor Phipps' vocals. He basically utilizes the "hardcore shout" and a style of harsh vocals that resemble yelling. This really doesn't fit metal as well as it fits hardcore. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, but it just doesn't fit the style of music for me. If he had utilized a more guttural melodic death metal style, I would have enjoyed this album a bit more. This album also makes use of a stereotypical style of clean vocals. These show up notably in tracks such as "Watch it Burn", "Shadows in the Light", and "Overcome". I definitely don't mind clean vocals and they can be very effective when used properly. On this album, whoever performs these vocals just sounds odd to me. I'm not sure who sings them, but they sound somewhat auto tuned and irritating to me. This is a problem I have with a lot of metalcore. The vocals overall are a huge dent in the quality of the album for me, and are one element of Unearth I've never enjoyed.
"Darkness in the Light". This album certainly is the best output from the bros in Unearth. I was not as impressed with the album that would follow, "Watchers of Rule", but nonetheless, I definitely recommend this album to a fan of metalcore. Especially ones who want to get into the more metal side of the genre. This is definitely much more metal than core. It's flawed, sure, but still an enjoyable release. Go ahead and check it out for yourself!
Oh, Unearth... the band of my high school years. Actually I've become acquainted with them through "The Oncoming Storm" around 2004. That time they were an emerging but very cool band, especially for my 16-year-old self and now I agree that this old record isn't great, but its first half is appreciable and it contains some superb metalcore anthems ("The Great Dividers", "Black Hearts Now Reign", "Zombie Autopilot") which undoubtedly affected my taste. However I've grown up since and sometimes these songs have a dated and teeny feeling because of the abundance of melodies, but somehow I still can like it when my ears simply don't desire the pure brutality. Their next record, "In the Eyes of Fire" was destined to continue the path of "The Oncoming Storm", although it wasn't really successful for me, because the whole was constructed of worn-out elements, therefore it was absolutely salt-free. So Unearth had been put out of my sight for some years. As I'm an open person to everything that's cool and metal I had been tasting the deathcore scene for some time and that was when I rediscovered Unearth and their 2008 album, "The March". Actually I found the themes and the whole concept more mature and some fresh air blowing through the songs. The common thing in the latter and "Darkness in the Light" is that both of these records are enjoyable from beginning to end (unlike their former efforts). Maybe the guys practiced enough to become good composers or the track lists are compiled in a better way, maybe both. But these albums truly worth listening to the whole.
Compared to "The March" "Darkness in the Light" is a more digestible release with the melodies, drifting riffs, ear-catching tunes. Actually I think this album is the proof of Unearth being a notable band in the metalcore scene, because they kept their unique style elements, those that we love them for since "The Oncoming Storm" but in 2011 they offer them in a more elaborate and sophisticated way.
Say whatever you want, but US metalcore is US metalcore, no one can do it like the American pals (at least I hardly ever listened to any metalcore album produced outside of the US that I actually liked). Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Darkest Hour, The Black Dahlia Murder and Unearth of course. Some of them lost their former charm by now, but for example As I Lay Dying and Unearth still keep producing good stuff (or even better than before).
Frankly, I am very skeptic about metalcore, so are those who distance themselves from the awful emo / screamo (scene) music sometimes labeled as metalcore and I used to discover new albums with a decent delay, but accidentally I bumped into "Darkness in the Light" one day, because I was damn bored of listening to the old, thousand times played records and spent some time for searching. Okay, maybe you would say that I was biased with Unearth as if nowadays somebody produces a decent metalcore record than we are head over heels. Actually this album sounds like it was made some six or seven years ago. Perhaps Unearth still couldn't reach such heights of a superstar to transform into a band that produces music under pressure or for the sake of money. Whatever the truth is it's evident that they hasn't become the bitch of new-wave musical trends.
So it's 2011 and the US “metalcore kitchen” still can produce some edible stuff. The new Unearth cake is surprisingly delicious. The secret behind this sorcery must be the fact that the key figures of the band hasn't changed. The magical triumvirate of Trevor Phipps, Ken Susi and Buz McGrath is constant since 1998 (bass player guy John Maggard is practically a solid bandmate for his membership of almost 10 years) so they are certainly a working mechanism that is very rare and honorable. And yes, the strength of this record is the presence of the already familiar sound - the guitar themes and the vocals – and the development of song writing skills. The novelty on this album is the usage of clean vocals in some parts (in “Shadows in the Light” and “Overcome”). Actually the amount of singing is not so much that I would become bored of it. I don't know who has committed the clean vocals but they are not bad at all and sound similar to Adam Dutkiewicz's. I mean it complements the music well.
I think this album has some very good, ear-catching songs that you might want to replay a lot of times and there are some forgettable but still enjoyable pieces in a half-and-half ratio. If you are allergic to too many melodies (as one of my friends is) it might will not work for you. Otherwise I think it radiates a lot of positive and youthful energy and you can bring some color to the gray workdays by this record. To be honest I have to mention that I had been listening to this record for some days and these melodies were a little bit too much even for me on about the fifth day and I've become hungry for some more brewtal death metal goodies. But for these days I was truly fond of “Darkness in the Light” and I'm sure there will be such days again in my life.
I tended to find some Killswitch Engage “influence” in the instrumental implementation too (sounds stupid, because I wouldn't presume that Unearth copies the latter, maybe the air of Massachusetts is the reason for those similarities). In fact, the two MA groups have always been following a very close style so it's no big surprise.
It's definitely a strong record and I think nobody would be disappointed who ever liked Unearth because it's definitely their best one so far. Maybe “The March” was a bit heavier and “Darkness in the Light” is just the familiar, ultra-melodic Unearth record, but I was more impressed by this one than by their 2008 album.
Weak points: there's really nothing new on this album (except the relatively new clean vocals) and only about half of the songs will stay in my memory.
Song hits: “Watch It Burn”, “Shadows in the Light”, “Arise the War Cry”, “The Fallen” and “Overcome”.
(could have been a KSE song: “Coming of the Dark”)