Unearth: The Oncoming Storm and the Art of the Breakdown

As many of you have figured out by now, my favorite styles of metal are death metal, black metal, and classic metalcore. I’m not talking about the watered down emo version of metalcore we get today, I’m talking about the raw and brutal metalcore of the early to mid 00’s. This movement was something that even some of the most stubborn of metal purists embraced, and if some were unwilling to budge, it would just be a matter of seeing one of these bands live. There was nothing too spectacular about a Killswitch Engage, God Forbid, Bleeding Through, or Unearth show. No lasers, pyrotechnics, fog, or larger than life stage props. It was just a backdrop, the band and one hundred percent pure concentrated energy. It wasn’t long before metalcore bands began to tour with the likes of Slayer, Megadeth, or even Dimmu Borgir, and in many instances, metalcore bands were outperforming some of these legendary metal acts, and they did it with their energy.

There’s always been a bit of a rivalry between metal and hardcore. Why? I haven’t the slightest idea. I love both, and when these two styles were combined, to me, it was like chocolate and peanut butter. I don’t understand why any fan wouldn’t enjoy the dark, sinister, and technical stylings of metal combined with the gritty, hard-nosed attitude and energy of hardcore. And let’s not forget about the breakdowns. Is there anything better than a pummeling breakdown? Maybe a blistering guitar solo. Well, with metalcore, we got to enjoy both. There were many great bands from this era, and one of the best when it came to the seamless convergence of metal and hardcore was Unearth.

We don’t hear much about Unearth these days even though they released a great album in ‘Watchers of Rule’ just a few years ago. The reason we don’t hear much about this band is because the metalcore scene is dead, but in its prime, Unearth were one of the premier bands in the movement. They started in 1998 in Massachusetts which was the heart of this fast growing scene with bands like Killswitch Engage, All That Remains and Shadows Fall. Unearth released their first EP titled ‘Above the Fall of Man’ in 1999 which earned them a record deal with Eulogy Recordings. In 2001, they released their first studio album ‘The Stings of Conscience’ and followed it up with their second EP ‘Endless’. These releases along with the band’s ability to put on a great show earned them a record deal with Metal Blade. In 2004, Unearth released one of the most essential and powerful albums of that period, ‘The Oncoming Storm’.

‘The Oncoming Storm’ was released on June 29, 2004 with Trevor Phipps on vocals, Buz McGrath on guitars and backing vocals, John “Slo” Maggard on bass, piano and guitars, Mike Justian on drums, and was produced by Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. Adam D. has always had a knack for bringing out the very best in every band who’s had the honor of having him produce for them. ‘The Oncoming Storm’ is no exception. This album has the kind of raw and unvarnished sound that captures the energy of Unearth’s style perfectly. Unearth’s main influences are At the Gates, Pantera, Metallica and Earth Crisis, and those influences are unmistakable throughout the album. It’s melodic, groovy, thrashy and brutal with subtle elements of hard rock. In my opinion, the stand out tracks on the album are “This Lying World” because it contains one of the most epic breakdowns ever written, and “Zombie Autopilot” for its chugging riffs and soul moving melody. My favorite aspect of the album aside from the actual music is the track arrangement, most notably the transitions from “Endless” to “Aries” to “Predetermined Sky”. Last, but not least, this album has some unbelievable, bone crushing breakdowns that will surely have you banging your head. Unearth are masters of the art of the breakdown, and they hold nothing back on ‘The Oncoming Storm’. This is one of the must own classic metalcore albums.

In closing, I want to ask the question: what happened to the breakdown? In the 00’s bands were giving us heavy doses of them, and not just metalcore bands either. I, for one, loved every second of it. How about you? What’s your favorite breakdown? Let us know in the comments section.

Check out ‘The Oncoming Storm’ full album right here along with the official video for “Endless” which gives you an idea, or simply a reminder of just how awesome these bands were live in this exciting chapter in metal history.


David Yeager

David Yeager

Motto: Question everything. From Alexandria, VA. Love music, art, writing, weightlifting & the Redskins. Metallica, Pantera, Obituary, Carcass, Lamb of God, Volbeat, Dimmu Borgir, Dissection & As I Lay Dying.
David Yeager

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