It’s funny to think how only 10 years ago metalcore was experiencing its heyday in the music world.  This was particularly true for the Massachusetts scene, with landmark releases such as Killswitch Engage’s “The End of Heartache” and Shadows Fall’s “The War Within” breaking into the mainstream and solidifying the careers for these bands. Of course, 2004 also gave us another outstanding metalcore release; Unearth’s “The Oncoming Storm”. To this day most fans have regarded “The Oncoming Storm” as Unearth’s magnum opus, and many fans and critics alike have used it as the standard to which their subsequent albums are judged. So with the release of their sixth studio album this year, where do they stand?

With the release of “Watchers of Rule”, Unearth remind us exactly why they are just as relevant in 2014 as they were a decade ago. To be fair, these guys have continued to refine their sound throughout their career, but at the same time I haven’t heard them sound this energetic since “III: In the Eyes of Fire”. Much like that album, “Watchers of Rule” is all about unrelenting riffs played at breakneck speed. On top of that, all of the Unearth trademarks are here: the strong interplay between guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, Trevor Phipps’ menacing hardcore scream, and of course their signature spine-crushing breakdowns.  Fifteen years into their career and these guys show absolutely no sign of slowing down. 

“Watchers of Rule” also features the debut of new drummer, Nick Pierce, and believe me this is one addition that Unearth is going to benefit from in all future endeavors! Pierce brings a whole new rhythmic dimension to this band, excelling in technical precision and death metal-style blast beats. In all honesty, “Watchers of Rule” contains some of the best drumming since the days when Mike Justian was behind the kit. Though what makes this album truly stand out as unique within the Unearth discography is the guitarwork. I never thought it possible that Susi and McGrath could step up their game even more than they did with the previous two offerings but they continue to progress both in technicality and songwriting.  This is illustrated in “From the Tombs of Five Below” when the solo trade-off is simultaneously accompanied by a tight rhythm section transition into a heavy groove. Subtle touches like this and others throughout the album show that they just have a knack for writing good guitar licks.

Many more tracks are likely to become fan favorites. The appropriately titled “Never Cease” is a nonstop juggernaut that seamlessly combines complex riffs with ground shattering breakdowns in a way that’s bound to make countless pretenders weep with envy. “To the Ground” features a unique display of dissonant and oddly timed riffs that are almost reminiscent of late 90’s mathcore. The title track may be one of the heaviest numbers in which they’ve ever concluded an album. Indeed “we are all guilty”, of banging our heads violently to this song!

In short, if your budget limits you to only one metalcore album this year then “Watchers of Rule” is a must have! This is a ferocious 35 minute experience from start to finish and quite possibly a contender for album of the year.


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