When reading the press release for Unearth’s seventh album, Extinction(s), a boast included was that the band had sold a total of 500,000 records worldwide. Now, admittedly, Unearth started at the dawn of the downloading age and have released a few albums in the streaming age, but wow, this fact makes me sad. It is hard to think of more than a handful of Metal bands that are consistently as high quality with the music they release, not to has mention how good they are live. When you see them onstage they have the presence and swagger of a band ten times their size.
Unearth’s last couple of records have been fantastic and very flashy with the guitar playing. When you have stupidly good players like Ken Susi and Buz McGrath, why the hell not? This time out they seem to have dialed it back a couple of notches, but only just a couple! This is still going to satisfy anyone looking for shred. This means that a little more of the ‘core comes to the front in Unearth’s tag of being a Metalcore band. The Metal is still the dominant sound, as it has been the case since their second and fan favorite album, The Oncoming Storm. I don’t want to sound cliche, but Unearth literally could have done what other bands do when they feel an album is definitive of their sound and they just keep it self-titled. Such is the mix of all eras of the band with a curve ball here and then. Lead single and album opener, ‘Incinerate’, is a great demonstration of this approach. Since really shitty Deathcore bands base entire songs on breakdowns, and crappy modern pop-punk bands like A Day to Remember tag them on for the sake of it, the breakdown has become passe. However, Unearth have brought huge, tricky, and brutal breakdowns back in virtually every song. This reminds us that, when done well, no one breaks it down quite like Unearth.
The big thing for me on Extinction(s) is how much Trevor Phipps has stepped up his game in both the lyrical and vocal departments. I mean, he was no slouch, but his voice here is by far the strongest and most versatile it’s ever been. I don’t know what he has been doing, but I hope he keeps it up. This may sound like I am on some mind altering drugs, but there are sections where Phipps sounds like Chuck Billy, which is not to be taken lightly. Also, there are hints where he reminds me of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher of Cannibal Corpse! Even Phipps’ signature mid-range bark sounds much more brutal and pissed off. I have never connected with Phipps as a lyricist, but here he is much more direct and relatable than ever. Be warned, Extinction(s) is a pretty gloomy and intense record if you’re a word person.
Unearth have always been a fucking heavy proposition, but Will Putney has done a sterling job making them even more brutal. I would guess that was the thinking in hiring him. The drums, tracked by old mate Adam D, sound awesome, and the guitars are as heavy as dump truck being driven by an elephant, but full of clarity. However, the bass guitar could be much higher in the mix. This is a real shame because even in the quiet section of ‘The Hunt Begins’, it’s hard to hear, but what you can make out shows that Chris O’Toole had some great ideas. This is his first outing on an Unearth release, which makes it even more criminal.
Extinction(s) is the first release for Unearth’s new label Century Media, and if I was the A & R guy that signed them, I’d be glowing with pride right now. I would also be telling everyone in earshot that this is the best Unearth record yet!