KILLSWITCH ENGAGE's Jesse Leach Reviews UNEARTH's Watchers of Rule
Note from the Editor: We've already reviewed the excellent new Unearth record, Watchers of Rule, but when we heard Killswitch Engage frontman Jesse Leach felt so passionately about the album that he wanted to submit his own review, we jumped at the chance to publish it. Here it is in it's original form…
I am standing in the back of The Studio at Webster Hall in New York City. Traces of sweat, beer and excitement are lingering in the air. I have watched Unearth countless times over the past 16 or so years, having played many small shows together and watching them rise to career-defining heights. They always deliver a powerful live show, and that is why I am here. They are on tour promoting their new album and I am anxious to hear a new song or two.
The drummer counts off and the music starts. Tight death thrash chokes and the song begins. This monstrous melodic and pummeling riff fills the room. It reminds me of Heartwork-era Carcass and I am all smiles. This is my kind of metal; this is metal done right. Halfway through the song there is chugging guitar attack. I can't resist I head straight into the pit. Then, the song stops on a dime and a guitar rings out with the classic Unearth-style breakdown. The entire place is a pit from wall-to-wall, bar-to-bar, and I feel exhilarated! As the song ends, the crowd roars in approval. The song is "The Swarm" on the newest album Watchers of Rule, which is the sixth studio album from these metal vets.
Watchers of Rule showcases a band firing on all cylinders. There is an urgency, a purpose and a drive I haven't felt in a long time from most bands from this era of metal. This album goes for the throat and only loosens its grip for a second in-between songs.
This is the kind of record that makes you want to lift weights, run or bike for along distance and sweat to it! What I love about Unearth is they are able to be massive, chuggy and brutal, but there are always amazing melodies in the guitar work. There is something interesting in every song.
Guitarists Buz [McGrath] and Ken [Susi] are locked and loaded with riffs for days on this behemoth of a record. Trevor [Phipps] offers up perfect vocals that blend hardcore aggression and precision of metal. Over the years, they have become very much a metal band, but you can hear the roots of hardcore in the backbone of their sound.
The album starts with an intro track that fades up like a classic Metallica song, where a beautiful melody rises into a sudden blast. There is the assault of "The Swarm" and the massive riffing swell of "Lifetime in Ruins," which has a classic Unearth "spoken intro" before diving back into the maelstrom of metal fury and colossal riffs. The best thing about this album is its unrelenting power and groove. It is intelligently written, but the beauty is you don't get lost in the time signatures, like some complex math-core bands that have a tendency to overdo it.
The solid groove is the bottom line of this record and the rhythm section is a solid wall of bottom end. You can bang your head to it and it is HEAVY, appealing to that animal, cro-magnum instinct that lurks in all of the metalheads and hardcore kids who just love the "heavy."
The third track, "From the Tombs of Five Below," continues the onslaught with big melody in the riffs and Trevor's unrelenting guttural vocalization. The band pulls out a swampy stoner as the song closes in a killer groove and huge riffs. Another standout end for a song happens in "Burial lines." The build up and the breakdown are so good! It makes me want to get up throw things around my apartment!
These guys are masters of their particular style of breakdown. They always maintain an energy so as not to drag the song down and move it in a different direction seamlessly. Also, all of the breakdowns are all quite unique on this album. One thing that is certain — this record never slows down, so much so that I need to take a breather midway though and pick it up a bit later.
I am certain that 15-year-old me would have laughed at 36-year-old me stating that last line.
However, it is a barrage of full-on sound and pace that may very well be its strength with some listeners.
You can pick up Watchers of Rule for as low as $9.49 on Amazon.com