Unearth - Watchers Of Rule - (9/10)
Published on October 27, 2014
The brutal metalcore comeback record that keeps on giving.
Unearth never changed their sound up that much over their career, and why would they, given their firm and successful grip on the midpoint between Killswitch Engage’s Gothenburg inspired melodies and the punishing thrash of Lamb Of God? Still, each of their records has its own little twist and, after shaking things up a bit with The March (2008), the band delivered the squeaky clean, overly melodic outing Darkness In The Light in 2011, to far lesser effect.
Watchers Of Rule (whatever that means), the band’s sixth full-length album, is a monsterous throwback to the harsher, thrash-based sounds of The Oncoming Storm and III: In The Eyes Of Fire and the heydays of metalcore (those albums having been released in 2005 and 2006, respectively), having seemingly spent the interim between this record and the last furiously blasting everything by Slayer, Pantera and (of course) At The Gates. Imagine all the heaviest bits Killswitch Engage ever concocted, rolled into one and sped up ten-fold, cannoning forth for an entire album’s duration so that you have no option but to concede to its glorious assault.
Guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath have stepped up their game ten fold, delivering their fastest and most technically intricate work since In The Eyes Of Fire, and then some. Watchers Of Rule is a step up for Unearth in every way imaginable. Vocalist, Trevor Phipps sounds as fierce as ever, and new drummer Nick Pierce1 is the icing on the metal cake. His drumming raises Unearth to levels of intensity even they’ve never traversed before – the rollicking, Slipknot-style kick bursts he lets rip on “To The Ground” being just one (fantastic) example of Pierce’s invaluable addition to Watchers Of Rule.
Oh yeah, that’s right, Unearth are metal as fuck.
Had it been released 10 years ago Watchers Of Rule would undoubtedly be heralded as a classic of the metalcore genre. This album is an absolute beast. There’s nothing on Watchers Of Rule that steps outside expectations, but neither is the songwriting formulaic and predictable as it was on The Oncoming Storm nor as one-dimensional as that of In The Eyes Of Fire (not that I don’t love those albums to bits).
Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any faster and heavier, Unearth consistently continue to punish your content. Every single track on Watchers Of Rule manages to completely obliterate the one before, rendering it one of those rare albums where the first song, “The Swarm” which doubles as the album’s lead single, is actually the weakest track on the record. Even when the task seems impossible, as when following up the utterly superb, technical battery of “From The Tombs Of Five Below,” Unearth manage to push onward and upward by dialing things back and playing into their monstrous groove on ”Never Cease.”
As insanely brutal as Watchers Of Rule is, every track is its own distinct and complete entity. Among all the thrashing and colossal groove sections are flourishes of unforgiving melody, most notably on “Guards Of Contagion” and “Trail To Fire,” that put the band’s former flirtations on Darkness In The Light to complete and utter shame. While more or less uniform in its bludgeoning thrash/beatdown assault, each individual track on Watchers Of Rule has its own unique flavor to bring to the table.
With metalcore sitting far outside fashion and favor in this modern age (and with fellow torch-bearers Darkest Hour deep into their own affair with acceptable but misguided melody), Watchers Of Rule is a reminder of everything that was and is great about the genre – complete with an unnecessary and poorly volume-matched intro track – and it might just be its heaviest, most destructive example to date.
For fans of:
Darkest Hour, Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red
Give these a shot if you dig Watchers Of Rule:
1. The only non-founding member of the band, with bassist John “Slo” Maggard seemingly M.I.A.