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Third Time the Charm? - 39%

DawnoftheShred, September 9th, 2008

Ah, Unearth. I’m not sure why I keep listening to (and subsequently reviewing) their albums, but I do. So here goes…

With “III – In The Eyes of Fire,” it’s pretty apparent that Unearth have come a long way from ripping off Shadows Fall. Psyche! This is actually more like Shadows Fall than ever before, considering the stronger thrash direction on this record. More so than on their past efforts, the emphasis of “III” is on a thrashier brand of pilfered Gothenburg riffs as opposed to their insipid –core riffset. Breakdowns are far less in number (but they do exist….oh do they exist) and there’s absolutely no emo vocals during the more melodic riffs. Not unlike later In Flames actually. But it’s still the same thing over and over again. I mean really, how many times can you hear a variation of that base “melodic hook riff” that everybody from The Black Dahlia Murder to The Haunted to Killswitch Engage to In Flames to Disabused uses ad nauseam. If you can stand hearing it well over a dozen times, this album is for you.

But now the good things. This is still the best Unearth album to date, in no small part due to the production. This time around they got a thick, ultra-dense rendering of their sound and it helps immensely to remind the listener that there’s at least a shard of metal in there, somewhere. Secondly, despite the band’s poor choice of sound, the musicians involved are admittedly apt. Aside from the vocalist (who’s just another toneless shout-screamer), Unearth actually are technically superior players to peers Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage.

Some would applaud this band for sticking to their guns and continuing to put out the same uninspired metalcore dreck they always have (to popular acclaim, of course). To them I offer this: you can stick to your guns all you want, but if you’re carrying a water pistol, it’s not going to hold up in a firefight. Kids think this metalcore stuff is extreme only until they’re exposed to something better, which could be anything from Cannibal Corpse to Warbringer to Pessimist to Cancer to Amon Amarth to just about any other black/death/thrash band of the past twenty years. Good production never hides poor material and one of these days, people are going to realize how hopelessly mediocre this band is. Until then, I submit that this is their best record, whatever that means to you.

Incredibly Dull - 20%

invaded, June 30th, 2008

I will give credit to Unearth for one thing, they are steadily trying to ditch their metalcore tag with this release, opting for a faster sound with thrashier riffs. The only problem is that these guys are terrible at coming up with aforementioned thrashy riffs.

It's as though Unearth are trying not to be metalcore, but they just don't know how. Breakdowns are still there, way there. I find these one note breaks the dullest, least inspired pieces of metallic music one can muster. Seriously, I know these guys are able to play their instruments, so play a couple of notes please.

The songwriting is predictable, thus rendering it uninteresting. The only tracks that are truly fresh are the opener "Glorious Nightmare", the follow-up "Giles" is not terrible per say, and "Imposter's Kingdom" is fairly good.

Besides that you're stuck with boring riffs, even worse breakdowns and terrible metal vocals. This guy Trevor Phipps sounds like a high school kid barely getting into screaming. There's no power, no coarse or mean quality to it. He sounds like an angry teenager.

I was told that Unearth had ditched the metalcore label, that the new record rips and la-dee-da. After having listened to this, I almoist wish they'd go back.

Let's just hope their next album is different... - 87%

GravesOfTheFathers, March 2nd, 2007

After Unearth's stupendous The Oncoming Storm, they gained a huge amount of mainstream recognition among the hardcore crowd for being melodic, yet sticking to their guns in releasing nothing but REAL hardcore music. You'll find no sung choruses or pig squeals in Unearth's music- just very intricate, technical riffing (though not in the tech death sense) played exceptinally cleanly, and the odd tapping/sweeping/solo here and there. Almost every song has a breakdown, and the breakdowns aren't all that wonderful, but you get used to it, and it makes the live experience very enjoyable (if you can manuever around the spinkicking ninjacore kiddies).

The most notable difference between III: In The Eyes of Fire and The Oncoming Storm is the production. The previous album had a very triggered but incredibly well-done production job by the legendary Adam from KsE, the go-to guy for metalcore production these days. Conversely, for III, the band just wrote a bunch of songs and got together in a studio and played them. It shows. You'll probably hate the production initially, but it definitely grows on you. The organic qualities are more apparent and everything just sounds more natural. The only downside is that it doesn't pack quite the punch that Oncoming Storm did, and Trevor's vocals come through a lot fuzzier. However, you definitely feel as if the band is right there next to you.

On the music side, I'm sorry to say that III does absolutely nothing new. They've whored out a tried-and-true formula which they themselves created- killer opening track with a lengthy breakdown, a few melodic tracks, maybe a clean section or two, then a track with harmonized leads and a long, epic solo, and back to the same formula, with a very angry and lyrically poetic closer. This Glorious Nightmare is an incredibly weak opener and sounds like it should've been in the middle of the album. On the whole, III just feels more like a collection of songs than a concerted effort from the band. Still, it's hard to argue with killer tracks such as Giles, Sanctity of Brothers, March of the Mutes, and Bled Dry. The "sequel" to Zombie Autopilot, So It Goes, has a lead unfortunately reminiscent of the former and comes off as a pathetic attempt to please the guitar solo-loving fans. The phrasing of the solo itself is excellent, however, and guitarists Buzz McGrath and Ken Susi work off each other very well in the "duel."

The most notable difference you'll find on III is that it's a hell of a lot angrier. While the intensity on Oncoming Storm decreased near the end of the record, the band only gets faster and more pissed off here. Tracks like Impostors Kingdom, The Devil Has Risen, and Unstoppable sound much more like technical death metal than anything else and are impressive in their intensity. Bled Dry panders a bit too much to the breakdown crowd, with screams of "THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE!" from vocalist Phipps reminding me a bit too much of an old Linkin Park live record I may or may not have owned at one point.

But I digress. III isn't bad by any means, but it isn't terribly different from The Oncoming Storm. At least All That Remains tried some new stuff out on their latest effort, even if it meant doing the "sung choruses" routine, but Unearth seem to have been living under a rock since they started touring for The Oncoming Storm. Hopefully their next album will be different.

Best tracks: Giles, March of the Mutes, Sanctity of Brothers, Impostors Kingdom. The only really bad track is Big Bear and the Hour of Chaos, a lame attempt at an instrumental closer.

Same song, 12 times - 65%

lord_ghengis, January 1st, 2007

Metalcore isn't the most varied genre around. There's the base sound of mainly hardcore sounding riffs, with some metal influences, generally harmonies, and generally feature straightforward structures with breakdowns scattered throughout most songs. Most bands tend to have one element of their own which they add to the base sound and use that repeatedly. Killswitch have big Melodic choruses, Lamb of God (although I don't see them as metalcore) are a little heavier and more mature sounding. Unearth's big original technique is the use of Swedish melodic harmonies and constant use of mosh friendly breakdowns.

Wait, that's oddly similar to the base sound of metalcore... Wait, Unearth are the base sound of metalcore... if you've heard pretty much any other metalcore band, you've heard Unearth. They have a little more emphasis on the harmonies, but other than that, they are the generic base which other bands expand their sound from.

This leads to the album becoming tired and boring quickly. Some people complain that III: In the Eyes of Fire sounds like their previous effort, but to someone who hasn't heard any other Unearth, the album still sounds boring about three songs in. Every song is the exact same. Not once do they change the structure of the songs, the guitars sound like they only have about five notes, and all the riffs just change the order of those five notes, and the vocals are your generic hardcore vocal with absolutely no variation to everything that he screams.

Only the instrumental closer "big bear and the hour of chaos" changes this, there is a larger influence on the melodies and harmonies there. Even the structure is changed completely with the song running with a single riff for the first minute and half, before a little chorus riff then a piano break down, and more traditional mosh riff to close the song, obviously Trevor Phelps couldn't comprehend the structure change, and decided he couldn't try to add vocals to the track, although it's not too musically different than the albums other songs.

However, I can't simply tear this album apart for it's lack of variation or originality, as it does have it's redeemable features, namely that the quality of the music is consistently good. Despite the riffs all sounding the same, they are fun and catchy, the band works tightly together and does offer enough catchy mindless joy to warrant listening to a song every now and then. It's almost as if the album was made to be put randomly through a playlist as when separated, the songs are quite enjoyable.

I can't really recommend the album, but I can't warn you off it either, as the quality of the music is quite good, The guitars of Buz McGrath and Ken Suzi works effectively with Mike Justain's drumming, and the vocals fit the fast and catchy approach of the band. The band have found what they can do well and understand how to write songs of the style, unfortunately they restrict themselves too tightly to what they do, resulting in an album which is almost unlistenable in a slab, but enjoyable enough in short bursts.

Does it even need a review? - 70%

Noktorn, September 14th, 2006

I've been thinking all day about how to phrase my thoughts on this album. As I primarily review more obscure death and black metal releases, the jump to mainstream metalcore is a rather dramatic one. And though I would love to say that Unearth's 'III: In The Eyes Of Fire' is an abject musical failure to validate myself as a metalhead, it would be more dishonest than I'm entirely comfortable with. It's certainly not the best album, but I'm not going to decry the merits that are present out of a misguided sense of community.

Really, it all comes down to what you are seeking in music. I'll say that the vast majority of the time I'm seeking something very artistically relevant, that speaks to me on a level greater than simple enjoyment. On this level, 'III: In The Eyes Of Fire' isn't exactly a rousing success. However, my infatuation with 'high art' versus 'low art' can't make me deny simple facts of quality, though they might be qualities that I view as less critical than others. This is all rather obtuse, but I suppose what I'm trying to say is that despite how I may want to insult Unearth (and likely will), I can't deny certain qualities on this album.

Unearth is no longer the bog-standard metalcore band that was so popular in the early 00's, but has rather moved towards the stylings of popular melodic metalcore sound of artists such as Trivium (albeit with a lesser obsession with NWOBHM). The album is for the most part refreshingly devoid of obvious breakdowns, and instead concentrates on emulating Gothenburg artists in an American fashion. Don't worry; this isn't quite the slavish adaptation of bands such as The Black Dahlia Murder. Unearth is able to maintain a sense of uniqueness despite what you could (and I will) say is pretty obviously derivative music.

The band is technically skilled, there's no doubt about that. All the instruments are impeccably timed and occasionaly present some rather impressive technical flourishes, thought they never really threaten to overtake the relative simplicity of the music at large. It wouldn't be a real misnomer to use the adjective 'rockish' to describe the music on this LP: more than normal is a sense of popular melody than what one generally finds in metalcore. Most of the brutality of other artists is noticeably absent from 'III: In The Eyes Of Fire', though not really to the detriment of the album.

Unearth are playing for a specific audience and they know it. Recommending this to purely extreme metallers would be illogical at best and undeniably ignorant at worst. This is not an album that will suddenly convert Sargeist listeners to the wiles of metalcore. However, if you are what the album is aiming for or are on the open-minded side of the fence, there's no problem with buying this LP. Hell, I'll even admit to having enjoyed it to a greater or lesser degree. While it does get rather repetitive at times, an enjoyable bit of lead guitar such as on 'Giles' or fun drum fill will maintain my attention. However, I have to be in the correct state of mind and not expecting some slowly-evolving pool of brilliance like Skepticism. It's mosh music at it's purest.

As with many releases, one already knows whether they would purchase it. Those who would probably already have or will be soon, and those that wouldn't are feeling angry just thinking about the album. So I ask you, judge it for what it is, not what it isn't: Unearth plays metalcore for those who want it, not for Varg Vikernes.

(Originally written for www.vampire-magazine.com)