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Album Review: UNEARTH The Wretched, The Ruinous

7.5 Reviewer

The glorious nightmare continues. Unearth is back with the follow up to 2018's Extinction(s), their eighth album since they were first shattered by the sun. (Post your favorite Unearth pun in the comments). 

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Stylistically, the album will satisfy long-time Unearth fans. There aren't a lot of surprises on this offering, though "Broken Arrow" does mix things up a bit with a straightforward heavy rock drive. The song almost has a Queen of the Stone Age-feel to it. No complaints from me there. Otherwise, the band sounds like itself: 2000s metalcore with an emphasis on dual-guitar theatrics, crushing breakdowns, and the rest of the band's standard-issue weaponry.

Fans looking to hear vintage metalcore excellence should proceed straight to "Cremation of the Living", as it contains all the Gothenburg riffs, anthemic vocal lines, and nose-cracking breakdowns you could ask for. Perhaps you didn't know, but 2000s metalcore is making a bit of a comeback lately. Lots of younger bands are out there sounding like 2004 never ended. And while I definitely dig it, it's good to hear some of the originals show how it's done.

It will come as no surprise that the guitars sound fantastic. A good friend of mine once labeled The Oncoming Storm "Megaman metal" due to all of the heroic riffing peppered across the band's music. And that's definitely still the case here, showing Buz McGrath's devotion to peak-era In Flames and Dark Tranquility remains intact. There are several moments that show his and Peter Layman's ability to build drama into a song, particularly on "Eradicator" and "Into the Abyss".

Another blaring headlight on this album is Mike Justian's drum sound. Returning after a long absence, Justian was, of course, behind the kit for Unearth's heyday albums in 2004 and 2006. From the lead-in to "The Wretched, The Ruinous," it's immediately a pleasure to listen to him shoulder the band's sonic machine. I particularly like how the kick-drum sounds: pulsing and powerful, but not overproduced to where it sounds like pens clacking against a desk.

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There's just one aspect to this album that kept taking me out of the music, which is how Trevor Phipps's vocals were produced. For some reason, you hear a lot of gushing and squishing sounds when he enunciates certain syllables. It's as if there's a separate track for all the air passing between his tongue and cheeks whenever he hits an "sh" or "ch" sound. Perhaps this was on purpose and Trevor digs this sound. Maybe you do too. But I found it kind of distracting.

As for the album's lyrical content, Unearth has long mined apocalyptic language, one that borders on the Christian eschatology of the day of judgment and revelation. The band's muse is of course the degradation of the environment and our shared habitat from the myriad human activities that affect it. This certainly makes for gripping and compelling material, though I will point out that preachers, philosophers and thinkers of all stripes have been predicting humanity's self-inflicted destruction since time immemorial, and yet we stubbornly remain here.

And while I agree that some changes are needed, we should take great care in the steps we take, lest we wind up causing greater exploitation in our efforts, or simply backslide due to our own idiocy. We should also take heart in the progress we've made, particularly in the United States as well as signs of nature's resilience elsewhere in the world. Additionally, time has shown that increased economic development, growth and prosperity leads to greater conservation efforts and habitat protection, meaning that self-immiseration and misanthropy are very much not the answer. I'm with the band in principle, just some things to consider.

Anyway. This is a solid offering from one of the metalcore greats. I'm sure these songs will fit nicely with the band's repertoire and motivate the usual forceful (and often scary) reaction in the pit from their diehard fans.

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