Reviewed: January 2019
Released: 2018, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Long a metalcore band that put the “metal” before the “core,” Unearth returns after a four-year absence with their seventh album. With Extinction(s), though, the Mass-holes have flipped the script to accent the “core” at the expense of the more traditional “metal” – although not sacrificing any of the “heavy” along the way as the album’s kick gives the sternum and ribs quite a pummeling.
Where the band’s earlier work typically fused thrash metal velocity and riffiness with hardcore heft, this time the hooks, breakdowns and lurching rhythms stand front and center. The songs deliver one roundhouse after another instead of bobbing, weaving and flinging jabs before landing the haymaker. Where there used to be ample subtlety and finesse, here the band have bulked up and opted mostly for sheer brute strength, giving the album a pronounced deathcore feel that seems rather ham-fisted.
Extinction(s) opens in fairly typical Unearth fashion, with “Incinerate” mixing its bludgeoning riffs with a snappy, shout-along chorus and the deft melodic sweeps of guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath. But the lumbering, thunderous breakdown, punctuated by frontman Trevor Phipps’ deliberate, guttural delivery, that wraps things up is a signal of what’s to come.
The trademark interplay between Susi and McGrath remains throughout, and gives the album much of what melodic flourishes it has. But tracks like “Sidewinder,” “The Hunt Begins,” “Cultivation of Infection,” “Survivalist” etc. have more in common with the likes of Thy Art Is Murder or The Acacia Strain – or, as is the case with the galloping “Hard Lined Downfall,” Slipknot – than anything Unearth had done to this point.
Some of this is no doubt due to the involvement of producer Will Putney, who plays guitar with Fit For An Autopsy and has an extensive deathcore resumé. The sound here is especially dense, almost smothering – especially when compared to the crisper though still rather crushing production of Terry Date, Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz and Mark Lewis before it – and aims relentlessly for the gut. And if that was what Unearth were after when they wrote the material, then they found a perfect match in Putney.
Album closer “One With The Sun” brings back some of the majestic flair on display with “Incinerate.” But after 30-some often numbing minutes, it’s too little, too late, especially when that sort of thing seemed so effortless and innate in the Unearth of old. Extinction(s) feels dumbed down and crude, and where Unearth once soared above the ‘core herd, they now have sunk to that level. And that’s an unfortunate turn.