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CD Review: UNEARTH Darkness in the Light

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One could say a lot of good things about Unearth. In 2001, with most emerging metal bands still mired in the colossal waste of time of “Nu-Metal”, the band became one of the first to push the style we think of as “modern” Metalcore with their debut release, The Stings of Conscience. Within a few years, Gothenburg riffs, barked vocals, and breakdowns all became metal standard-fare, from the rundown VFW shows all the way to Ozzfest. Not surprisingly, this spawned an enormous wave of followers seeking to emulate bands like Unearth and Killswitch Engage. But lest we forget, Metalcore was something Unearth did long before the sound became popular. And from what I can tell from Darkness in the Light, it is something they continue to do very well.

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With the opening volley of harmonized guitars, Darkness sounds just like an Unearth album should. From the very first listen, Watch it Burn became one of my favorite Unearth songs. From the furious drumming to the sudden but welcome inclusion of clean vocals, Watch it Burn is nothing less than exhilarating. Oh, and the breakdowns are pretty sweet too, and are well placed in the context of the rest of the song.

This burst of energy at outset of the record carries through the next 10 quite nicely. Each song flows logically into the next without too much of an interruption other than the more openly somber tone of Equinox. Unearth packs songs like The Fallen and Eyes of Black with a wealth of heroic and dizzyingly melodic riffs and guitar solos to satisfy guitar enthusiasts, while avoiding the mistake of alienating all the other listeners. Produced by Killswitch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz (who else), the album has a full and meaty sound to it, but has a significantly crisper edge than 2008’s The March. In a way, there is quite a lot of Killswitch to this record, with Justin Foley manning the session drums.

Aside from the clean vocals thrown in here and there, you won’t find too many things to separate Darkness from Unearth’s back-catalog. As can be expected, many of the things that one listener likes about this album is likely to make another one cringe. A lot of metal-heads still have an aversion to breakdowns and to Metalcore in general, some even continuing to peddle the false-equivalency between Metalcore and Nu-Metal. So if you don’t like breakdowns then Darkness in the Light will be…the sort of thing you don’t like. While I find nothing new in that mentality, I find the furor over the use of clean vocals totally baffling. Trevor Phipps’ vocals are as vicious as ever and he uses his clean voice very sparingly. He happens to have a very good voice, so I see no problem with him showing it off in ways other than his usual bark and scream technique.

I did not expect much from Unearth here and perhaps my low expectations led me to be extra enthusiastic about the quality of the record. What should you expect? If you dig Metalcore and want to stick with those who do it the best, then Darkness in the Light should do you just fine. Although I’m sure Unearth fans will find something to quibble about, they should all be satisfied as well. I know I am.

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8/10

Favorite tracks: Watch it Burn, Shadows of the Light, Eyes of Black, Arise the War Cry, The Fallen

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