While Massachusetts metalcore troupe, Unearth’s last album, The March was a strong worthwhile, it was arguably the least satisfying of their albums overall. There was something missing. It lacked aggression, and as vocalist Trevor Phipps told me, (at least as concerns his vocal performance), it lacked fire. When your front man is lacking the fire in his belly, the entire project feels it.
On Darkness In The Light that fire and aggression are back in a visceral way. The title alone refers to the band’s frame of mind, and that of Phipps specifically. He said that during the time between albums he endured some significant tragedy and setbacks that fueled his inner rage, and that poured forth in his lyrical content.
Another element that pushes Darkness In The Light past The March and even III: In The Eyes Of Fire, is the return of guitarist Ken Susi to a more balanced songwriting attack. The last couple of albums fellow guitarist Buz McGrath carried the majority of the load. The two together are an almost unstoppable pairing.
The album’s opening track says it all. “Watch It Burn” is fuel to the fire that Phipps is carrying on this record. Lyrically this is a completely unveiled message of outrage at the blind ignorance shown by far too many people who can’t get past extreme views of the few to focus on common needs of the many. Aurally, the song is packed with everything you could want in a metal song. Excellent and harmony driven guitar work, tight riffing, harsh vocals offset by some of Ken Susi’s clean vocals. Bassist John ‘Slo’ Maggard gets into his groove from the outset, and we get our first taste of Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley’s interpritation of the band’s music.
While Foley never actually played the songs with the band in the studio, you’d never know he wasn’t right there with them. He nailed this track and every track on the album. It will be intriguing to hear him with the band live this summer on the Mayhem or European tours.
“Watch It Burn” is the tablesetter and catalyst for what’s to come, which includes the album’s first single, “Eyes Of Black”, which muscles up in traditional metalcore fashion. Nothing new, just a damn good song, with some nice breakdowns and solid melodies.
For those intriuged to hear more of Foley’s drumming on this record, some of his best skin work appears on the driving and melodically infectious “Ruination Of The Lost”.
Harmonized guitars draw you into “Shadows In The Light”, where you will be sonically beaten and happy to wear the bruises. Once again the track is equal parts blistering aggression and melody. This is another one where Susi adds some cleans vocals, which add depth and dimension to the song.
“Arise The War Cry” is the fastest song on the album, (at least the beginning anyway), and one of my favorites. Though there are parts where there seem to be holes in the sound (again at the beginning) that leave the song sounding tinny or hollow early on. The solo on this one, as my kids might say, is off the hook.
Then there is the moody and despairingly beautiful intro to “Equinox” a song by bassist Maggard, that gives the listener a much needed breather without losing hold of our attention. Lyrically, this is Phipps dealing with his angst again. This track is both dark and achingly poignant.
Then a trio of melody and guitar candy riven headbangers, “Coming Of The Dark”, The Fallen”, “Overcome”. I keep coming back to the incredible amount of melody on this record, that somehow manages not to diminish the heaviness and aural animus the band attacks us with.
The album closes out with the crushing in-your-grill rager, “Disillusion”, which really channels that fire Phipps felt he was missing on the band’s last album.
On Darkness in the Light, Unearth once again turned to good friend and Killswitch Engage guitarist, Adam Dutkiewicz (As I Lay Dying, All That Remains) to produce. This will be the 4th of the band’s five albums Adam D. has helmed. The band’s third album was produced by Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones). Vocalist Trevor Phipps admits that while working with Date was an incredible experience, the band has created an unreal chemistry with Adam D.
While Darkness In The Light does not quite attain the status of 2004’s The Oncoming Storm, it is a pummelling reminder that Unearth are among the founding fathers of the metalcore movement. These 11 new tracks make a clear statement that Unearth have not lost their edge or knack building for well crafted songs.