"Phoned in" were the first words that came to mind with regard to UNEARTH's "Darkness in the Light". It was the sense that one sometimes gets when it seems a band is forcing square pegs into round holes. It is also about uncertainty with respect to what a band is trying to be at a certain point in its career. Those feelings do begin to fade after subsequent trips through the music of "Darkness in the Light", but the world-beating power and unshakable confidence that has been associated with UNEARTH since the release of "The Oncoming Storm" just isn't there this time around.
The template of Americanized (i.e. breakdown-riddled) modern thrash and Gothenburg death — what could still be considered metalcore to some extent — remains and for a significant portion of the album continues to induce tectonic plate shifts. The playing, including impacting harmonies (e.g. "Ruination of the Lost") and fleet-fingered soloing from guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath, remains at a high level. Trevor Phipps' voice however has seen better days; his bark still has bite, but there is a noticeable fraying of the edges and loss of power. By and large though, chops have never been an issue with UNEARTH and that hasn't changed on "Darkness in the Light".
It is not that the songwriting is poor, as by most anyone's standards much of the material here is more than acceptable, "Overcome", "Watch it Burn", and "Ruination of the Lost" three such examples. However, when put up against the standards set by UNEARTH on previous releases one can hear too many instances of wheel-spinning, regardless of sky-high intensity levels. Either that, or there is a larger issue with the sounds of hungry bellies having all but disappeared. It is not like one could legitimately assail a prototypical, breakdown-y UNEARTH cut like "Eyes of Black" for being tame; rather, the issue is one of degree in pertinence to that patented ferocity.
It is also not the case that the incorporation of clean/melodic vocals on certain tracks was a fatal mistake. But those vocals needed to be delivered in a way that fit like a glove and gave the melody line a boost. That didn't happen on the tepid "Last Wish" or in the case of a title track on which those clean chorus vocals are embarrassingly bad. It matters not that UNEARTH may have had the best of intentions or shifted gears in this manner without any outside pressure to do so; it just doesn't work.
A couple of glaring missteps notwithstanding, "Darkness in the Light" is not a poor album; it is not even "just" a mediocre album. It's better than that. But it does sound too much like too many other bands in places and the accompanying loss of identity presents issues of a serious nature. Overall, on "Darkness in the Light" UNEARTH fails too often to make the kind of unflappable, convincing impact that defined earlier works. "Good enough" just doesn't cut it for a band like UNEARTH.