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Unearth - "Darkness In The Light" (CD)

Unearth - "Darkness In The Light" CD cover image

"Darkness In The Light" track listing:

1. Watch it Burn (4:06)
2. Ruination of the Lost (3:36)
3. Shadows in the Light (3:46)
4. Eyes of Black (3:53)
5. Last Wish (3:07)
6. Arise the War Cry (3:56)
7. Equinox (2:59)
8. Coming of the Dark (3:08)
9. The Fallen (3:35)
10. Overcome (3:12)
11. Disillusion (3:38)

Reviewed by on August 17, 2011

"The law of declining utility can suck on this – the same thing can be just as good the 1,000th time as it was the first, just as long as it is purveyed by the best in the biz."

Since I seem to be the last guy on earth that enjoys metalcore and is willing to admit it (I’m not scared of the scene police, are you!?), Metalunderground.com HQ sent via secure wire that I was to review Unearth’s newest good cop/bad-cop party, “Darkness in the Light.” This pleased me, as while Unearth still may be falling short of the Killswitch Engage/Shadows Fall strata circa 2005, the group is still one of the most consistent outfits still trying to turn a profit at Hot Topic. With knuckle-tattoos blatantly inscribed over clenched fists, I jumped into the pit...

…And what I found was more of exactly what Unearth does well – muscular riffs, searing leads, dreamy bridges, big breakdowns, bad cops screaming at life, and good cops wishing it would get better. My personal preference is for Unearth’s guitar hero end of things instead of the hardcore tough guy bits, as all the yelling and crooning can get tired, and thankfully there are plenty of heroics. Opener “Watch it Burn” kicks in with a huge guitar lead, and whets our palette for more of exactly that, which “Darkness in the Light” delivers by the truckload. The title track has a syncopated riff that stutters like a stroke victim, and there are multiple fretboard freakouts from Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, both of the layered type during the chorus and the solo type during the, well, solo (that it is over the top of a breakdown is an extra nice touch).

Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley was recruited to do studio work in place of former skinsman Derek Kerswill, and he brings a predictably steady and more authoritative hand, although it sounds like he saved his best tricks for the next Killswitch studio effort. Trevor Phipps gets vocal duties and remains in fine throat with his harsh range in the display case here, going from almost death growls to very clear roars and the clean croon, per usual. Adam Dutkiewicz (also of Killswitch Engage) lends strong but not overwrought work at the production board.

If this all sounds very routine, it is. But in a good way. Unearth has perfected the Mass-core so well that the band even knows how to save songs mid-play: “Eyes of Black” is a clunker during the first minute or so, but leads from Susi and McGrath eventually crescendo into a big chorus, and the outro breakdown rips us back to earth again. “Arise the War Cry” starts in as a guitar wank-fest but ultimately brings the stickiest hook on the whole album out from behind the curtain. “Equinox” may be the only whole-song misfire with the touching piano ballad, but kudos for trying, and it is an interesting respite from all the yelling.

By the last few songs of “Darkness in the Light” things start to get repetitive, but that’s mostly based on the singular mode of Unearth’s style. But the band keeps throwing riffs and hooks around, and taken on their own “The Fallen,” “Overcome,” and “Disillusion” are still solid metalcore jaunts; “The Fallen” moves from breakdown to solo to bridge to big finish with easy dexterity, and while the chorus on “Overcome” is a rare sing-along misfire, the guitar work saves the song from the bin.

I harp on originality and uniqueness a lot ‘round these parts, but Unearth has reminded me, with pit-leaded fist, that the law of declining utility can suck on this – the same thing can be just as good the 1,000th time as it was the first, just as long as it is purveyed by the best in the biz.

Highs: The title track gives a phenomenal metalcore shred workout.

Lows: The clean vocals get a bit tepid, but at least they are kept somewhat minimal.

Bottom line: Metalcore veterans deliver another predictable, but predictably well done, album.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)