Unearth

Watchers Of Rule

Written by: AP on 21/12/2014 17:48:51

Widely credited as one of the earliest progenitors of the metalcore genre, their stylistic lineage traceable directly to Pantera and Sepultura, Unearth are without dispute a pioneering force and have, since the release of their 2004 sophomore album "The Oncoming Storm", risen to be one of its most consistent and successful purveyours. Although ironically, the group is simultaneously notorious for sticking with a proven formula, the minor and often subtle adjustments introduced with each successive record have done just enough to ensure Unearth's continuing relevance - be it the thrashy undertones of 2006's "III: In the Eyes of Fire", the technicality of 2008's "The March", or the forays into melodic death metal on 2011's "Darkness in the Light".

Indeed, the swelling, melodious grandeur of "Intro" lures the listener into a false sense of familiarity at the outset of this sixth album "Watchers of Rule", too; but the comfort stoops to an abrupt end when "The Swarm" initiates the proceedings proper in ferocious style, a rain of blastbeats and tremolo signalling that with "Watchers of Rule", Unearth have dug deep into the roots of their genre and found there a level of extremity hitherto unheard in the band's music. Although the music then settles into more recognisable terrain, there is little respite across the nine tracks that follow, the chosen approach more often than not encompassing an overload of mind boggling guitar virtuosity by Buzz McGrath & Ken Susi, pummeling, thrashy rhythms by drummer Nick Pierce, and ripsaw growling by Trevor Phipps.

The interesting thing is that on "Watchers of Rule", Unearth seem to have aligned themselves more with representatives of the technical corner of metalcore than with modern thrash as has been their forte thus far. The likes of "Guards of Contagion" and especially the magnificent "From the Tombs of Five Below" sound unmistakably similar to the froth inducing dexterity of August Burns Red, with tracks at times having little in them that could be construed as simple, ordinary or conventional. In the latter, for example, McGrath & Susi seem to engage one enormous, serpentine solo, riding at the crest of an ultra dynamic rhythmic foundation for its entire duration, shunning the very concept of a repeating riff as the basis for a song. The prowess of these two gentlemen on their instruments is nigh unfathomable, so naturally it would be below them to grind out some dime-a-dozen staccato riff. No, for Unearth the name of the game is to capitalise on their finest asset, and that, without question, is the partnership of their two guitarists.

Arguably, the neverending whirlwind of guitar wizardry prevents "Watchers of Rule" from having clear standout moments. But the flipside of that coin is that at any given time, they're delivering a masterclass in technical metalcore - and the icing on the cake is that the memorability of their music rarely suffers. Take, for example, the powerful chorus of "Guards of Contagion" ("Do you remember the fire we're standing in? This world bestows us the Guards of Contagion.") or the astonishing harmonised tapping that precedes it; the djent fueled main riff of "Never Cease"; the chastising weight of the breakdown laden "To the Ground"; or the fusion of a beautifully melancholic lead with a verse burning with intensity in "Burial Lines" - and you'll discover a richness in both detail and diversity you won't soon forget.

Unearth pull through all of this with customary consistency of course, with the result that I'm hard pressed to point out any striking weaknesses from which "Watchers of Rule" might suffer. The sheer amount of brag-worthy musicianship planted across its 45 minutes of playtime is overwhelming to be sure, and Unearth might have opted for the inclusion of more distinctive choruses like the one found on "Guards of Contagion". But for any fan of technically supreme metalcore, "Watchers of Rule" is a mouthwatering treasure chest of rewards.

8

Download: The Swarm, Guards of Contagion, From the Tombs of Five Below, Never Cease, Burial Lines
For the fans of: August Burns Red, Sylosis, This or the Apocalypse
Listen: Facebook

Release date 28.10.2014
eOne Records

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