A personal favourite of mine – UNEARTH have always been one of the better, second generation Metalcore bands. At once, seemingly more Metal and Hardcore than their peers, UNEARTH stood apart from similarly Gothenberg-infected acts through the sheer intensity of their music; owing as much to Post-Thrash acts such as LAMB OF GOD as the melodicism of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE; and while their music has never been in any way progressive or original – to engage in a drinking game where one is required to do a shot every time Trevor Phips announces “breakdown!!”, with a double for every time it’s followed up by shifting into a two-step beat is to flirt precariously with one’s mortality – they’ve always done what they do better than any other (except maybe DARKEST HOUR). However, as the saying goes; “the bigger they are the harder they fall”. Thus it is probably more so my personal reverence of the band that is responsible for the disenchantment brought about by their most recent offering rather than the intrinsic quality of its content, yet no matter how many spins I give "Darkness In The Light," it remains as bland and uninspired as its title.
"Darkness…", the band’s fifth full length, sees the addition of KILLSWITCH ENGAGE sticksman Justin Foley to the fold, which perhaps served as the catalyst in its shift towards the more polished and melodic style of Metalcore popularised by that band. Likewise, KSE mastermind, Adam Dutkiewicz once again handles production deities – having done so for all but one of UNEARTH’s albums, 2006’s superb "III: In The Arms Of Fire." While Dutkiewicz has always been known for his squeaky clean production, "Darkness…" is so crisp as to be rendered sterile; there’s something about the overall tone of the album that lacks the edge and personality of previous recordings, and a predominate addition of clean vocals, on behalf of founding guitarist Ken Susi, only serves to heighten the deterioration of the band’s individuality. The clean vocals are nothing new, having featured most significantly on – what is perhaps the band’s best release – 2004’s "The Oncoming Storm." However, combined here with the stale production and uninspired songs, they go a long way towards rendering the UNEARTH as a third-rate incarnation of a sound they once pioneered. The album has its moments; opener “Watch It Burn” is an absolute scorcher, “Last Wishes” too, if it weren’t for the clean vocals, “The Fallen” is fun but interchangeable. So too the guitar work of Susi and fellow axeman Buz McGrath cannot be faulted, in and of itself. Yet, when viewed as a whole, "Darkness In The Light" comes off as yet another tepid "Alive Or Just Breathing" imitator. Quite disappointing for a band who have been so consistently invigorating over the last decade or so.
(Online August 6, 2012)