Unearth are in a rather peculiar position to be in: not as big as fellow New England axe slingers Killswitch Engage or All That Remains, but they still have a much bigger fanbase than, say, It Dies Today. They certainly have the experience and album pedigree to rank up there with the biggest of metalcore bands; they have been around to see the genre skyrocket to stardom, falter a bit after it’s meteoric rise,and than firmly plant it’s foot on the ground with veteran bands proclaiming that they weren’t going anywhere. So will Unearth‘s most recent album, Darkness In The Light finally break them through the glass ceiling and into mainstream metal popularity?
Darkness In The Light comes almost three years after the bands previous release The March, so it’s certainly been a bit of a lengthier wait than most fans of other bands are used too. Unearth has always had a nice balance of being fairly consistent from album to album, while also introducing a new dynamic and style to their sound. In the Eyes of Fire took the bands sound from fairly stock (although perfectly executed) metalcore and injected it with thrashier, faster elements. The results was an album that ran at a blistering pace and featured more technicality than any of their other albums to date. The March slowed things down considerably, with an element of groove that was not only catchy as hell – but also had some of the most memorable choruses and riffs that the band ever created. So what does Darkness In The Light bring to the table?
Well…at first that’s a bit tough to answer. Darkness In The Light is slower than In the Eyes of Fire, but faster than The March. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of the songs struggle to keep a consistent pace and often feel disjointed. Look no further than the opening song “Watch it Burn” as an example of when things just feel off. Whereas songs on their previous albums seemed to flow effortlessly, songs like “Watch it Burn” come to a grinding halt when it’s time to deploy the chorus, only to awkwardly pick up steam again right after it’s done. Other songs stumble into an oddly placed breakdown, something that again the band didn’t have trouble with in previous releases. While writing this album, Unearth didn’t have a drummer, and one has to wonder what kind of impact that made on song writing and keeping certain ideas in check.
The drumming is another thing I would like to highlight about this album; Unearth brought in Killswitch drummer Justin Foley to record the album in studio, but I wonder if he had anything to do with the writing process. The drums on Darkness In The Light are most of the time uninspired and ho-hum. This is a bit of a disappointment after the great drumming in previous albums, most of them actually being recorded with different drummers (seems like Unearth has a bit of a problem holding onto their drummers). I don’t claim to know their writing process or who wrote for the drums, all I’m saying is compared to the bands previous work it’s all a bit lackluster. The drumming on Eyes of Fire for example, made you want to go punch someone in the face. The drumming on Darkness In The Light makes you take note of how aggressively mediocre they are.
It’s certainly not all band news though, not by a long shot. Darkness In The Light still proves to be an entertaining album, with plenty of memorable riffs and moments that’ll make you want to take note and re-listen later. Songs like “Arise the War Cry” have seemingly none of the pacing issues mentioned earlier, and a killer riff that will get stuck in your head for days. “Shadows In The Light” mixes vocalist Trevor Phipps recognizable screams with guitarists Ken Susi’s clean singing; something that the band hasn’t done since 2004’s The Oncoming Storm. The result is an awesome song that highlights what the album could have been if it’s pacing didn’t at times falter so hard.
The song “Overcome” is another one that stands out of the pack; but there is just too much filler on this album. Songs that either plod along or you’ll want to hit the skip button only a minute in are littered in between all of the good content; leaving about half the album to rot on your iTunes played list. If your an Unearth fan (like I am) the album is worth a listen because you will be able to pick out the gems underneath the rubble; but this album is a much harder sell to people who either are unaware of the band or remain neutral towards them. It’ll be interesting to see if Unearth will be able to flip around an album faster than the three years between The March and Darkness In The Light, maybe between all the touring and recently announcing a new drummer (that hopefully will stay in the band this time) they’ll be able to regain the momentum they apparently lost between the last album and this one.
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