Metalcore favorites UNEARTH are back following their 2011 album "Darkness in the Light", and what's changed in the interim are a new drummer, a few modifications and even better playing from a band that's already long been at the head of their class. In other words, UNEARTH does what they do best: bum rush, bark and barrage, but with scores of enhancements. Their new album "Watchers of Rule" is so well-executed it excuses the same ol' same ol' aspect about it.
After a gorgeous, guitar-swarming intro number, "The Swarm" rips away with exactly what the title would entail: teeming guitars from Ken Susi and Buz McGrath, who play at lightning speed as the track flies in tandem. These guys slay their positions better than any surviving metalcore act out there. Current drummer Nick Pierce proves himself up to the task of providing a fast, pounding platform for Susi and McGrath to sizzle over, while John "Slo" Maggard rumbles along on bass and Trevor Phipps rages above, sounding like he still has everything to prove. Regardless of the expected breakdowns that crop up, "The Swarm" is an exciting, decorative burner that gets an equally busy successor, "Lifetime in Ruins". The shoving, breakdown-minded riffs on the latter's intro are given a steady pound to huff along to, which would've been plenty enough to chew on for this cut. UNEARTH changes signatures more than a handful of times on this track, so pay close attention. Nick Pierce's tempos shift without warning and the guitars have minds of their own, dotting with neoclassical scales in rivulets, as they do on "The Swarm".
"Guards of Contagion" rides a panting hardcore groove at its base, while Trevor Phipps woofs on and sounds like he's carrying a hundred gigs of the past behind him, which is meant as a compliment. There's a sage craftiness about "Guards of Contagion", which finds more ornate scales frolicking behind the coarse riffs, all building to a harmonious chorus. "From the Tombs of Five Below", similar in theory, only with darker, digging 'core chords and even more crowding guitar layers. A blasting solo section will have UNEARTH fans screaming "Sick!" wherever they behold it.
Subsequently, "Never Cease" pushes on with persevering energy, giving only a bare pause to serve up a chiming guitar solo that ushers a buzzbombed breakdown and a classy bridge before grinding hurriedly along to close. The breakdowns get more prominent spots on "Trail to Fire", which utilizes them to crawl out of the random thrash nudges. As before, it's Buz McGrath and Ken Susi who inject classical-hummed lines into the song, give a lot more to absorb in "Trail to Fire". The jumpy and lambasting "To the Ground" is one the heaviest numbers of the album, carrying even enough sustenance and energy to close the album, and yet there are still three pounding numbers left to go.
Aside from the ridiculous playing on "Watchers of Rule", UNEARTH have learned the art of efficiency. Knocking out most of these songs within three to three-and-a-half minutes, "Watchers of Rule" packs tons of punches and they deliver a kayo of an album in economical time. The short time off and change behind the kit has given UNEARTH massive urgency. Still containing four-fifths of their core, UNEARTH may destroy drummers from the vigorous demand of their music, but that demand is why this band is tops of their breed. "Watchers of Rule" kills it — and how.