Unearth sound like Thy Art is Murder now. That’s the big takeaway from their brand spanking new seventh album, the coyly titled Extinction(s). Yet just because its ultimate evaluation, along with the album itself, is overly reductive doesn’t mean it’s not still a fierce slab of hyper-aggressive metalcore, with plenty to offer those still looking to throw down.
Unearth have long been unsung heroes of the metalcore scene. Though they boast a broader profile than many bands of their ilk, they’ve also arguably never quite received the credit they deserve for being one of the genre’s most consistent and uncompromising artists. Take, for example, their previous offering, 2014’s Watchers of Rule, which largely flew under the radar, despite being one of the best and most extreme offerings the genre had produced in both recent memory and, I’d even argue, it’s entire existence. Not that that album was particularly boundary-pushing, but Extinction(s) feels like a more conventional Unearth outing, with the band relaxing their foot on the proverbial pedal somewhat and opting to sit comfortably within the devastating crossover sphere they’ve created for themselves, rather than pushing the limits of their sound to their extreme like they did on their previous effort. The result is a familiar-sounding, if undeniably enjoyable record whose one stylistic variation comes in the addition of a single, and a fairly overt new point of reference.
Perhaps the added deathcore-isms stem more from the involvement of Fit For an Autopsy‘s Will Putney behind the production desk (although Killswitch Engage‘s Adam Dutkiewicz handled drum recording for some reason), and apparently ex-Acacia Strain guitarist Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz was involved in the writing at some point. Nevertheless, the Thy Art is Murder touchstones make themselves quickly known. Opening track “Incinerate” trades on that band’s distinctive down-tempo bludgeoning, with vocalist Trevor Phipps slipping into a lower, less-intelligible register that immediately brings to mind that of Thy Art’s CJ McMahon. The immediately-following tracks lean less in this new direction, with “Dust” in particular throwing back to the thrashier days of Watchers of Rule and III: In The Eyes of Fire (2006). The Thy Art-isms re-emerge in full force with “The Hunt Begins” and “Hard Line Downfall”—the latter of which also throws a very Slipknot-sounding riff into the mix before plummeting into what can only be described as a colossal deathcore breakdown.
The addition of these deathcore trappings to Unearth’s sound seem both logical and fitting, though it ultimately comes across like often they’re playing on others terms rather than their own. A budding melodic solo in “King of the Arctic”, for example, is prematurely halted in favor of yet another deathcore-style catch-cry beatdown, and the classic melodic metalcore tropes that populate “No Reprisal” feel utterly refreshing following “Sidewinder”, which pairs further “Psychosocial”-style Slipknot riffing with more Thy Art-esque grooves and vocal patterns. [I literally went through all of Thy Art is Murder’s albums trying to find the specific song “Sidewinder” reminded me of before I realized I was just thinking of “Incinerate” off this very album.] The added (and distinctive) deathcore elements don’t at all make for a bad record. As I said, the new elements work well within the band’s already established template, and the album is perfectly enjoyable as a whole, provided you’re into that sort of thing. Still, Extinction(s) standout material remains tracks like “Dust” and the climactic “One With the Sun”, which stick more closely to the traditional Unearth sound.
Extinction(s) is by no means a disappointment, but perhaps it would have been served better if its new flourishings were used more to accentuate rather than characterize its content. Unearth have always been their best when they throw caution to the wind and really push the more extreme elements of their sound, like they did on Watchers and the earlier records that made their name. They’ve never been an innovative act, nor have they claimed to be. They simply made their mark by doing what everyone else was doing at the time harder and faster, and therein still lies their greatest strength.