The Wretched; The Ruinous

Century Media
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Wretched, The Ruinous
02. Cremation of the Living
03. Eradicator
04. Mother Betrayal
05. Invictus
06. Call of Existence
07. Dawn of the Militant
08. Aniara
09. Into the Abyss
10. Broken Arrow
11. Theaters of War

Thank the lords of metalcore for UNEARTH. While other bands that emerged from a thriving US scene 20 years ago eventually succumbed to commercial concerns or faded away through lack of persistence, Boston's finest have stuck to their guns. Only their eighth album in 25 years, "The Wretched; The Ruinous" might as well be held up as a perfect example of what metalcore was always supposed to sound and feel like. True to the sound they helped to establish with albums like "The Oncoming Storm", but often much more vicious than expected, these songs make metalcore seem like a brilliant idea all over again.

UNEARTH were never allergic to melody, but part of their enduring appeal is that they have always remained aggressive and brutal, with frontman Trevor Phipps operating as the bug-eyed and sweaty manifestation of that ethos. Everything here, from the opening title track onwards, sticks to a familiar script, but this is easily the heaviest record the band have ever made, both in terms of production and performance.

"Mother Betrayal" has an air of symphonic black metal to it, with darker shadows than UNEARTH have explored in the past and a dash of complexity to hammer the drama home. "Invictus" is similarly macabre, and mixes up pure metalcore clatter with indulgent, gothic atmosphere and a final, deliciously lobotomized breakdown. "Eradicator" is a bloody chunk of pure pit fodder, with countless stops, starts and changes of pace: UNEARTH make it sound easy, but they also remember to inject some emotional oomph with another gleaming melodic hook placed in amongst the dissonance and staccato violence. "Into the Abyss" is a feast of harmonized leads and motivational hollering: a proud nod to the past, but more refined and memorable than anything UNEARTH were writing in the noughties.

"The Wretched; The Ruinous" ends with its most powerful moment. Too imaginative to fit the metalcore mold, "Theaters of War" is simply a great heavy metal song. The twin-leads and hyper-precise machine-gun riffing that have always been part of the band's sound continue to provide them with a musical spine, but the flesh on those bones has grown in depth and texture. Meanwhile, Phipps sounds more commanding and fired-up than he has in years.

Worthy of respect for staying the course, but also for smashing harder than ever, UNEARTH have made their best album since 2008's "The March". In the absence of anyone else nailing this substrain of metal with such panache, I hereby proclaim them to be the current kings of this shit.

Author: Dom Lawson
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