The year 2014 marks the 10-year anniversary of Unearth’s The Oncoming Storm, which is one of my favorite albums of all time; I could gush so much about that album you’ll think that they paid me. Since then, Unearth has been one of my main staples in metalcore, and a prominent name in the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. There’s a perfectly good reason why they’ve been popular for so long, and Watchers of Rule, their newest release, is utter proof of that.
After a short intro track, the album starts out on an incredibly strong note with “The Swarm.” We covered the track before a bit, and it’s pretty clear how amazing of an opening track it is. The beginning of the song alone was very jarring because we don’t usually associate that amount of blistering double picking and blasting with Unearth, but there it is. And it somehow transitions perfectly to the rest of the song, complete with all of their essential elements. The verse riff is heavy and melodic at the same time, followed by an exciting guitar solo in the middle, and great breakdown to end it all. Unearth’s breakdowns have always been amongst my favorites, and I’d wager it’s pretty easy to see why if you’ve listened to “The Swarm.”
The rest of the album is absolutely fantastic. Unearth’s songwriting has never really been formulaic per se, which makes Watchers of Rule driven more by the riffs rather than other things, such as catchy choruses. And there’s nothing wrong with formulaic writing either, but the advantage here is that every song on Watchers of Rule feels unique in their own right. I mean sure, going from main riff to breakdown back to main riff and back could definitely be classified as a formula, but on Watchers of Rule, it doesn’t feel as completely defined or cookie cutter as perhaps other metalcore bands tend to drift towards.
All of Watchers of Rule is just absolutely heavy. Songs like “Never Cease” and “To The Ground” are just non-stop barrages of hammers right to your brain. Even when the songs breakdown, they never lose an ounce of energy since they are usually just building up to something even better. However, at times I felt sometimes this worked a little against the albums favor. While each of the songs are stellar, there aren’t any really slower paced songs, or songs that might back off on the heavy a bit for just a little more melody. And after a while, your ears can get pretty worn out to it all. Not in a “that’s so metal” sort of way, but in a way where you might see yourself taking a break once in a while in order to have fresh ears to fully enjoy the rest of the album. Of course, you may only encounter this if you’re giving the entire album one full go at a time.
Watchers of Rule is just an absolute good. This is definitely one of Unearth’s best albums, and should be considered a benchmark for metalcore in 2014. This is a highly recommended album to anyone and all who wants something heavy in their lives. With Watchers of Rule, it’s pretty clear that Unearth still has plenty to give their listeners, which only makes me more excited for the future.