Sound — 8
The band initially formed in 1998, though they didn't release their first album until 2001. The band was picked up pretty early by the small label, Endless Fight Records, which helped them in the release of their first EP. Since then the band has had some rocky times in the early 2000's with some lineup changes, but stabilized except for being cursed with a revolving door of drummers. Nick Pierce is the most recent drummer, who has been with the band since the end of 2012 and who does an excellent job on "Watchers of Rule." "Watchers of Rule" is the band's sixth full-length studio release and contains 11 tracks with an approximate runtime of 35 minutes. Leading up to the album release, Unearth has released "The Swarm" and "Guards of Contagion" as singles.
The album opens up with the short intro track, predictably named "Intro," which has a very epic little melody and does a good job of setting up the album. "The Swarm" comes in very aggressively, with some serious guitar-work throughout the track, as well as some stellar drumming and a great guitar solo - one of the most successfully chosen songs I've heard to open an album in a while. "Lifetime in Ruins" opens up with some gallops/triplets on guitar and drums and vocals that remind me very strongly of "The Punisher" movie from the '80s with Dolph Lundgren whisper-talking as The Punisher (not sure if that is Trevor or Susi). "Guards of Contagion" has some of the strongest vocals I've heard in a -core band in a while. "From the Tombs of Five Below" has an intricate lead part locked in with a pounding almost-djent rhythm, which definitely keeps the listener's attention. "Never Cease" builds in aggression and tension without relenting until you find yourself attempting to shadow-drum along with it, and includes a quick little part using Susi's vocals, which are pretty rare on this album. "Trail to Fire" starts with what sounds like a guitar slide/ string scrape in slow motion, but quickly turns into an all-out audio assault. "To the Ground" won me over pretty much out the gate with some of the heaviest drumming from the album, and a great atonal guitar riff used very sparingly in the track. "Burial Lines" probably has the strongest vibe of "hardcore" in the album. "Birth of a Legion" is one of the more interesting tracks on the album, with little descending guitar lines and both clean and dirty vocals. The album closes with the title track, "Watchers of Rules," which has an interesting syncopation thing going on with the rhythm and strong vocals. The track also has a really frantic guitar solo which works really well within the song.
Lyrics — 8
Trevor Phipps is a phenomenal vocalist, despite having one of the most non-metal sounding names in history. Slo provides some backing vocals to great, though subtle, effect throughout the album, and there is very little use of Susi's clean vocals on this album but to great effect when they are used. Trevor is definitely on the strong side of current metalcore vocalists, and I would say I would definitely rate him in the top 10 vocalists for his genre. The lyrics are pretty much standard fare for the genre, with the occasional stroll into the cheesy, but without becoming overpowering.
Overall Impression — 8
There are very few "metalcore" bands that I would consider to be "doing it right," but Unearth definitely fits the bill - some seriously good guitar work, great drumming - great musicians across the board really, with aggressive vocals and an aggressive style. They aren't re-inventing the wheel, but they are doing what they do exceptionally well. My favorite songs from the album would have to be the "Intro," just because I'm a sucker for that type of melodic soloing, as well as "Lifetime in Ruins" for the vocals, and "To the Ground" for a lot of reasons. I didn't really dislike any songs from the album, but I felt like in general, the second half of the album was better than the first.