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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Unearth

The Oncoming Storm

Review by Arnold Hablewitz

In sharp contrast to the dying nu-metal genre, the metalcore scene tends to have an approach that focuses less on radio-happy hitmakers and more on unrelentingly heavy, death metal-influenced, and in some cases, superbly-gifted musicianship. In obvious comparison though, the metalcore genre, like the nu-metal, death metal, thrash metal, and hair metal genres before it, is quickly becoming over-saturated with bandwagon-jumpers and upstarts that upon hearing the first albums from Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and re-discovering the likes of Earth Crisis, Snapcase, and Hatebreed, fell so in love with their styles that they no longer care whether or not the stuff is original. It just tends to happen; metalcore has Dead to Fall, death metal had Brutality, thrash metal had Meliah Rage, and hair metal had Poison. It's just what happens.

Fighting off early comparisons to Killswitch Engage (which having resident renaissance man and KSE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz producing this effort didn't really help with), Unearth is struggling to maintain its originality. They seem to be winning the battle, though, as the new disc "The Oncoming Storm" proves. Sure, you can pick out your KSE, In Flames, At The Gates, Meshuggah, and Chimaira moments here and there, but the album mixes it up in such a way and with such an amazing sound quality that it grabs hold of you and pummels your face in while attempting (and succeeding) to tell you that the disc really is worth listening to and the band is really worth watching out for.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Great Dividers
The tune opens up with a fairly decent thrash riff with some neat little double-bass underneath it and quickly runs that gauntlet of hardcore breakdowns and heavy, mid-paced metalcore before coming to a rest. This is a decent song, but the way the first riff begins, it's not necessarily one I would have considered as an opener
Failure
Opening up with a run of sweep-arpeggios sure to please any pseudo-Yngwie and then launching into an awesome riff that harkens back to "Of One Blood"-era Shadows Falls, this song is a real winner. Fear Factory/Hatebreed/Chimaira-esque "Wish I'da thought of that" riffs are in abundance, but I really dig the slow melodic thing towards the end.
This Lying World
Opening with a brutal riff that could have been straight from the "Pass Out of Existence" album from Chimaira (nice use of minor-2nd intervals too), this song is a contender for the favorite on the album. Nice build-up into the verse, and then the kick drum pummels you into oblivion, only to be brought back down to earth by the super-melodic and easy-going chorus riff. This song tends to scatter between parts and dynamic shifts like a caffeine-injected rat, but that only adds to the tune's effectiveness.
Black Hearts Now Reign
The seemingly first single has a very Maiden-esque power metal opening, that follows (very effectively) into an In Flames-ish type of verse and chorus, complete with the melodic guitar soloing over the rhythm part. At just after 2 minutes through, the song jumps into a brutal hardcore riff not unlike Throwdown before kind of trickling into a more melodic deathcore thing and then back into the power metal riffs.
Zombie Autopilot
With a cool name, this starts with a cool atmospheric acoustic intro, and then about the most In Flames-esque riff I've heard since Impellitteri outright ripped off "Pinball Map" in his tune "Fall of Titus." Throw down a very Killswitch Engage style of breakdown with heavy syncopation and lots of chord changes, before launching into a well-played solo followed by a better-played and better-fitting solo and then a harmony line to die for. In the midst of the following heaviness, someone sticks a cleaner, softer build-up into a shouted melodic outro riff.
Bloodlust of the Human Condition
This starts with a riff that is very akin to the beginning of Killswitch Engage's "Life to Lifeless," before hitting a Candiria-esque off-tempo pre-chorus (3 hyphens in one sentence - yes!). Much of the song makes it seem like the simpler, down-to-earth brutal beast that is meant to show that the band not only jams uber-technical, but that they really can dumb it down and make it work. Also at about 2:11 in, I really dig the Meshuggah-esque syncopation, and I like it even better when it comes back at 2:58 with that tremolo-picking from the lead guitar.
Lie to Purify
Open strings and a faster groove bring a welcome change as the intro of this tune kicks in, but ha!...psyche!...here comes the hyper-thrash again. Next up is a melodic chorus, harmony interlude, some unexpected inventiveness on the skins from Mike Justian before launching into one of the heaviest riffs of the disc, a super-beefy one that plays counterpoint to the double-bass (or vice-versa). It's a shame it only lasts a couple repetitions.

Endless
All right, I knew the death metal tremolo-picking had to be on here somewhere, and I love how it transitions into a beautiful triplet-laced riff, followed by more hardcore bombast. The chordal riff at 1:21 with the cleaner vocals doesn't really work where it's placed, but the riff immediately following at 1:46 is a great follow-up and might be disputed as one of the catchiest moments of the disc - really infectious.

Aries
With fuzzy piano to open, and the way the guitar and bass and ride cymbal come in to interact is really awesome, and certainly show that the band could probably do something incredibly epic if they felt like it. My main gripe though, is that I really think that this song isn't placed well; it should be the closer.

Predetermined Sky
A nice riff at the beginning around 0:26 makes me think of the interlude riff of "Becoming" by Pantera, how the guitar is going along kind of straightforward, but if you listen to the double-bass underneath, it's playing something completely different and yet it's working really well. The riffs following that work really well with the tune and it seems like someone really did their music theory homework on this one. In my opinion, this tune should be earlier in the disc to sort of exemplify how talented the band really is, as opposed to opener "The Great Dividers," which suffers a bit from throw-this-riff-in-there-'cause-it-might-sound-cool syndrome. There's nothing like that on here

False Idols
A really awesome riff, very melodic and straightforward, but a bit inventive in terms of chord progressions, makes this a great way to lead off an album closer (think the first heavy riff to Cradle of Filth's "Lustmord and Wargasm" as a further example of this kind of riff. very catchy and a bit more down-to-earth than what you normally expect from that band). Following it runs the gamut of influences, but is a little more anthemic in the vocal patterns (once again making it a good album closer). This is very catchy and very hook-filled.

 
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