Album Review: Unearth – Darkness In The Light

When the world was last treated to an album from Massachussetts metalcore mainstays Unearth in 2008, the subgenre was, without question, in a far healthier position than it is today. The often awe-inspiring combination of thrash-esque brutality, stirring hardcore outlook and euphoric melodies was not only commonplace and popular at the time, but also executed wonderfully well by a cluster of great bands whose music still makes the more recent purveyors of the craft seem futile in comparison. The likes of August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada may have achieved commercial success, but for many, their clean-cut manner and crossover appeal is a turn-off. Furthermore, with All That Remains having lost their edge and Killswitch Engage struggling to recreate former glories, ‘Darkness In The Light’ could not have arrived at a more important time. Unearth, a band whose impact on the metalcore scene was as monumental as that of their aforementioned counterparts, are on course to outlast all of their rivals, if their truly fantastic fifth full-length is anything to go by.

Unearth Darkness In The Light ArtworkOne of the most instantly apparent aspects of ‘Darkness In The Light’ is that it does not showcase a particularly drastic musical progression on the part of Unearth. If such an accusation was levelled at many other bands, it could perhaps be interpreted as a critical comment. However, in this particular case, a rather sideways movement in terms of evolution works an absolute treat, such is the sheer brilliance of the inimitable brand of metalcore that Unearth have already developed on previous albums. Quite simply, anyone who has enjoyed any of the band’s past releases will appreciate what ‘Darkness In The Light’ has to offer. From the moment that opener ‘Watch It Burn’ erupts into a cacophonic fury of blistering brutality, understated yet penetrative riffs and exhilarating melody, the realisation that this remarkable band has been sorely missed becomes clear. This sense of vibrancy barely relents for the remainder of the album, which is largely down to the flair of Killswitch Engage’s Justin Foley, who assumes drumming duties. The man’s performance, as has been the case on each of the KSE albums he has featured on, is stellar throughout, the thrashy rapidity of ‘Coming Of The Dark’ and ‘Last Wish’ perhaps being the most notable examples of Foley’s skill.

Foley, however, by no means outclasses the permanent members of Unearth. For any aspiring metal guitarist, for instance, ‘Darkness In The Light’ could be used as something of a “how to” guide, as Ken Susi and Buz McGrath prove, and not for the first time, that they are two of the most devastatingly talented guitarists in their field. Not one of the ten tracks on offer lacks an unfathomably good guitar solo, an irresistible riff or a perfectly executed breakdown. The Southern rock-esque riff which signals the climax to ‘Eyes Of Black’, the mind-consuming sweep-picking which introduces ‘Arise The War Cry’ and the groove-tinged solo of ‘Overcome’ are some of the highlights from this masterclass in metal guitar. The area in which Susi and McGrath arguably excel the most, though, is harmony. The dual lead guitars on ‘The Fallen’ could not be more infectious, while the harmonised intro of ‘Shadows In The Light’, reminiscent of ‘March Of The Mutes’, is one of the most effective ways to begin a metalcore track. Also, the performance of vocalist Trevor Phipps should not be underestimated. His unmistakable roar packs more of a punch than ever before, and he particularly comes into his own on the wonderfully heavy closer ‘Disillusion’.

Despite the previously outlined observation that there are not many signs of musical deviation from Unearth, there are nevertheless a couple of moments on ‘Darkness In The Light’ where it could be argued that slightly unfamiliar territory is explored. The amazing ‘Ruination Of The Lost’, for example, is perhaps less hardcore-tinted than anything the band has ever done before, which allows classic-esque harmonies to become more prominent, forming a larger-than-life beast which echoes Darkest Hour’s best work. ‘Equinox’ is perhaps an even more ambitious affair, consisting of intricate piano playing and inspired post-rock riffs bookending a sublime burst of savagery. As great as this is, though, the more archetypal, more abrasive tracks on ‘Darkness In The Light’ are ultimately the reasons why this album is so impressive. Perhaps ‘The March’ and ‘The Oncoming Storm’ remain Unearth’s finest works, but this latest release certainly runs them close. It may be faultless on a technical level, but its main achievement is that it reminds the listener of metalcore’s timeless quality, whilst simultaneously cementing Unearth’s status as the true champions of the genre.

Rating – 8


About JJPorter

JJ is a 20-year-old student hailing from Scotland, who lives and breathes music. His favourite genres include a variety of styles of metal, as well as hardcore, punk, and just about everything in between. Contact JJPorter on Twitter or via Email.

2 Responses to “Album Review: Unearth – Darkness In The Light”

  1. Lianne Dickson 08/07/2011 at 12:31 am

    Thank you for the review. Few points I would like to make about it though. Your description of each song, and its sound was far more descriptive than was neccesary. There’s not really any need to overly describe each riff as a “cacophonic fury of blistering brutality”. Drop the thesauras every now and then, complexity isn’t synonamous with eloquence. A good review also focuses on every aspect of the song, the lyrics, songwriting process, the production etc (but of course, only touches on the smaller subjects). Also, there’s no real need give an in depth description of the background of the subgenre. A nice, contextualised paragraph will suffice. There’s nothing wrong with the content, it’s just the way it’s described.
    A similar, but more contextualised review can be seen here: http://www.metalinjection.net/reviews/cd-review-unearth-darkness-light

    Hope this helps for your future reviews,
    Dicksy x

  2. Thanks for your comments. They are greatly appreciated. However, my response would be that when writing music reviews, I am always conscious of the fact that the content has to be relevant and contextualised. Your point regarding using too much descriptive language when discussing the songs is interesting, but for me, this particular album lends itself to such descriptions. The same applies to what you’ve said about my description of the background of the subgenre. These are things that I considered to be relevant in relation to the album, and having been a long-term fan of Unearth and similar bands, these are simply the things that struck me the most when listening to the album, and therefore, I wanted to share these thoughts. I would actually argue that by providing an in-depth background, I have contextualised this album more than other reviewers might. Also, I don’t use a thesaurus often when writing. I apologise if it seems otherwise!

    It’s good to receive feedback from someone whose perspective on what makes a good review is perhaps different to my own. However, it is my opinion that there is no specific right or wrong method of writing reviews. One of the most beautiful aspects about music is that it is interpreted in different ways, and different people will focus on contrasting aspects of a track. I think the way you tend to interpret music helps form your writing style, which is why two reviews of the same album are rarely the same. With regard to the review that you posted a link to, for instance, the issue I have is that the reviewer tends to personalise his work too much. From my point of view, I don’t like to refer to “I” or “me” in a review, because I don’t feel like the reader is directly interested in any preconceived ideas that are specific to me. Sure, I write about the elements that jump out at me, but I always try to ensure that this manifests itself in a way that aims to make the reader feel “included”, and I feel that the use of pronouns such as “I” is a turn-off. But hey, that’s just my take on things, and like I said, the reason why music journalism is such an interesting and vibrant industry is there is often such a huge contrast in writers’ approaches.

    Thanks again for your comments, and sorry if I’ve rabbited on for too long!