III: In the Eyes of Fire Label: Metal Blade Records
As easily one of the most anticipated releases of the year for the metal underground, one can only really sit, stand, or mosh, slack-jawed, at what Unearth has brought to the table with III: In the Eyes of Fire. Living up to the hype is one thing, but delivering one of the most skull-crushing metal records of at least the past three years is another. Unearth proved themselves worthy to a larger audience with 2004’s The Oncoming Storm, but what is heard on III is a band completely focused and on top of their game. This may very well end up being the metal record of the year.
One term that has followed Unearth throughout their career is “metalcore.” To those in the genre loop, that term will either make you cringe or pique your interest. In simple terms, metalcore is a mix of heavy metal and hardcore punk. On III, the only aspect of Unearth’s music that even remotely fits the metalcore bill is Trevor Phipps’ vocals. From an instrumental standpoint, the band has solidified themselves as a tight, effective metal monster.
Kicking off with the ultra-aggressive “This Glorious Nightmare,” III very rarely lets up. As one would expect from Unearth, the music is chock-full of blazing riffs and grandiose breakdowns, all thanks to the blistering guitar duel of Ken Susi and Buz McGrath, combined with drummer Mike Justian. It is not until track seven, “Unstoppable,” that we even hear a semblance of a clean guitar. You’ll be tempted to blink and take a breath, but I’d suggest otherwise. Tracks like “Impostors Kingdom” and “Bled Dry” are still on the way, and they will melt your face. It all culminates with “Big Bear and the Hour of Chaos,” a downright gorgeous instrumental that is not to be missed.
Lyrically, Unearth maintain their standing as a cut above the competition. Phipps continues to write creative, heavily-detailed songs that really paint a picture in the mind of the listener. From the political (“March of the Mutes”) to the epic (“Giles”), Phipps keeps things fresh in what can often be a dry and repetitive genre when it comes to imaginative lyrics.
But when you get right down to it, III is the kind of album that comes along only when an immensely talented band clicks on all cylinders. Unearth has never been afraid to stretch the standards, and here it has paid off in every way possible. If you want to get a case Headbanger’s Neck in less than forty-five minutes, look no further.