By Michael Boesel
Elm Staff Writer
With the so-called “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” new sub-genres like nu-metal and metalcore have evolved and emerged, which brought up their own sub-genres like emo and other “core-genres.”
While the nu-metal genre is experimenting with mixing and fusing different music influences like metal, rap and electronic music, metalcore is more straightforward and focused on the classical metal “ingredients.” Bands like Trivium, As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage are increasing the complexity of metal songs while trying to maintain an accessibility to the music, resulting in an ambitious and exciting new kind of hard and heavy music.
Among the pioneers of this new metalcore genre is Unearth, a band from Winthrop, Mass. formed in 1998. Their first album “The Stings Of Conscience” was released in 2001 and left a mark, but with their second release in 2004 entitled “The Oncoming Storm,” they set the benchmark for what metalcore should and wanted to sound like.
After the short, guitar-heavy intro, Unearth is firing their opening song “The Swarm” at the listener. After the first few seconds, a devastating storm of guitars and drums is breaking loose, making the listener speechless. The speed and technical skill of guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi are incredible and surely among the best of the scene. The song is driven by a melodic and heavy riff interrupted by a great breakdown for which Unearth is famous.
In the song “Lifetime in Ruins,” the new drummer Nick Pierce shows some great tempo shifts leaving no questions about whether or not he is capable of keeping pace with the rest of the band. “Guards of Contagion” is carried mostly by Trevor Phipps vocals and, again, the guitars of McGrath and Susi which create a melodic beast of a song. The shouts of Phipps are solid yet they are a little too monotonous.
The following “From the Tombs of Five Below” and “Never Cease” both have crazy guitar solo sections which are nothing less than fascinating. The focus changes to the breakdowns with “Trail to Fire” and “To the Ground”. For other bands, this would mean a great loss of energy, but these breakdowns are equally energetic as the other parts of the songs and maintain the high pace. “Burial Lines,” “Birth of a Legion,” and the title-giving “Watchers of Rule” all are as great as the rest of this album and further strengthen the impression of the unmatched technical skills and ingenuity of Unearth.
While “Watchers of Rule” is not revolutionizing the genre, and it might not become “The Oncoming Storm” Part II for Unearth, it is still an exceptionally good metal album that stands out among all the generic and rather boring records of most other metalcore bands out there.