In 2019, Unearth will be embarking on a European co-headline tour with Darkest Hour dubbed the Death To False Metalcore Tour, presumably named that way for two reasons – a) to take some not-so-subtle jabs at Atreyu for claiming they invented the genre, which is demonstrably false on all acccounts, and b) to highlight that fact that metalcore really has undergone some major changes for the worse. Since its early days, it’s a term that’s fully distanced itself from roots of fusing hardcore punk and extreme metal, pejorised into fashionable, over-earnest pablum which can definitely have its strengths, but has gained a band reputation for a lack of originality or power in any way. That’s not to say that Unearth are trailblazers themselves, but they’ve at least managed to keep stable through some real heft and not caving to what’s popular, especially recently where they’ve enjoyed a notable resurgence simply from doing their stuff better than so many others.
It’s not as if that’s a formula that needs changing either, especially when they’re not actively dulling their impact, and that leaves Extinction(s) as a sometimes rote but perfectly solid entry to Unearth’s ever-growing catalogue, continue down their metalcore / melodeath path with the same command of presence and power that they’ve been great at for two decades now. There’s enough meat and raw riffage to tracks like Dust and Sidewinder to more than suffice in terms of a straightforward metal assault, and in terms of pace or power, it’s not as though there’s a dip that’s particularly severe or even all that noticeable.
To look at that from another perspective though, it’s not like Unearth are evolving much here, if at all. They’re still using ostensibly the same raw materials here as they have since day one, and while they’re perfectly capable of pulling it off, it can feel like an album that’s just another piece of their overall mosaic instead of a standout entity on its own. Compared to its predecessor, 2014’s Watchers Of Rule, an album which so many saw as a considerable step up from their previous handful of albums, Evolution(s) can at times fall back into a holding pattern. It’s certainly not a bad album – Unearth have enough pure, metallic power to suitably captivate musically, and Trevor Phipps can still offer a good deal of intensity as a vocalist – but it’s not like this is all that distinct, not from other melodeath acts nor a lot of Unearth’s own material.
That won’t matter for some, mind, and neither should it; Unearth are continue to rampage down the same path they always have with enough sharpness and fury to please their fans yet again. But on a wider scale, it’s difficult to determine what really sets Extinction(s) apart from being just another traditional metalcore album, because there doesn’t seem to be that much that does. At this point, Unearth have the right to target their appeal directly to their fans, but that can be done with a bit less bluntness, something which can make this album fall slightly flat.
For fans of: Darkest Hour, Shadows Fall, The Agony Scene
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Extinction(s)’ by Unearth is released on 23rd November on Century Media Records.