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Since 1998, Massachusetts metalcore outfit Unearth have been American standard-bearers for a sound that combines European-style death metal, hardcore punk, melodic thrash, and machine-gun breakdowns. Though its lineup has evolved, founding members and guitarists Ken Susi and Buz McGrath, and vocalist Trevor Phipps, have been constants. The band has placed five albums in the Top 200, and scored big on both the Rock Albums and Hard Rock Albums charts. They have toured the globe numerous times, headlining their own tours while also sharing festival and venue stages with Slayer, Whitechapel, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and Lamb of God. Their approach to musical evolution is, to say the least, gradual.
Their sound, has been stubbornly consistent, from the maniacal urgency of 2001's iconic Stings of Conscience through to 2011's Darkness in the Light. Unearth are considered pioneers who have never caved in to changing trends.
The band's origins in Boston date back to 1998 with an original lineup of Phipps, Buz McGrath, Susi, drummer Mike Rudberg, and bassist Chris Rybicki. Their name was penned by Rudberg, who claimed the band wanted to "unearth" a new sound in hardcore and metal. Their first EP, Above the Fall of Man, was independently issued in May 1999, earning them enough notice to sign with Eulogy Recordings for 2001's The Stings of Conscience and 2002's widely celebrated Endless EP. Rybicki left the band while recording the EP, and was replaced by John "Slo" Maggard. The group established their road bona fides with Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, and the Black Dahlia Murder. After seemingly endless touring, which included acclaimed appearances at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, their road journey took them to 2003's SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Rudberg, weary from the endless cycle of shows, van travel, and sleeping on fans' floors, left the band mere days after SXSW. They employed several temporary drummers to fill his seat. But all the highway slogging eventually paid off. Unearth signed with Metal Blade Records with new "permanent" drummer Mike Justian (Hassan I Sabbah) in time to cut their label debut. The Oncoming Storm was issued in 2004 and followed by road work that landed them on the stage for the MTV Headbangers Ball tour that summer. The album peaked at number 105 on the Top 200, a nearly unheard of feat for an independent metalcore band at the time. They followed with more touring, first with Slipknot and the following year as part of the initial Sounds of the Underground jaunt with Norma Jean, GWAR, and All That Remains, to name scant few. In 2006, Unearth recorded III: In the Eyes of Fire in Seattle with producer Terry Date. Propelled by its title track single, the album ran all the way up to number 35 on the Top 200 and 14 on the Rock Albums chart. The promotion for the recording took them to Ozzfest, Japan's Loud Park Festival, and a jaunt with Slayer across the U.S. early the following year. They headlined a European tour in the beginning of 2007 with Job for a Cowboy, Despised Icon, and DÅÅTH, and undertook another U.S. & Canadian journey with Dimmu Borgir and Kataklysm in the spring. Justian was fired during the last round of shows, and Strapping Young Lad's Gene Hoglan filled in for the remainder; he was succeeded by Derek Kerswill, who became an official member. The following spring, 2008, Unearth's audio/video package Alive from the Apocalypse was released. It placed at 13 on the Top Music Video Chart, and was certified gold in Canada. Throughout the spring and summer Unearth toured, but somehow found time to cut The March album, issued in October. It sold over 100,000 copies and entered the Top 200 at number 45. Unearth played the Download Festival and headlined their own tour. In the fall of 2010, Kerswill amicably parted ways with the band. In January of 2011, they re-entered the studio with temporary drummer Justin Foley. The set was co-produced and engineered by Susi and Adam Dutkiewicz, with Mark Lewis mixing. It was released in July while Unearth were on a tour which took them to that year's Mayhem Festival, where they shared the stage with Megadeth, Trivium, and Machine Head, among others. McGrath took some time off to deal with personal issues and missed the subsequent Brothers of Brutality tour, with Matt DeVries of Chimaira filling in for him. The album reached 72 on the Top 200 and was their last for Metal Blade. The band continued to tour while they sought new label representation, signing with eOne in late 2012.
Unearth re-entered the recording studio in 2013 with new drummer Nick Pierce, a permanent replacement. Teaming up with producer and engineer Mark Lewis, they cut 2014's Watchers of Rule. Released in the fall, the album reached 105 on the Top 200, and the band's preceding and proceeding tours sold out shows on both sides of the Atlantic. The following year, Unearth revealed to the metal press that they were seeking a permanent replacement for Maggard, who had been absent from the studio and the stage for nearly two years without explanation. DeVries had been filling in on the bass, but felt he could no longer continue due to other commitments. Chris O'Toole was hired as a permanent replacement. Though Unearth continued to tour as headliners and festival attractions from Boston to Tokyo, they didn't record again for nearly four years, though they continued to write on the road and off. They left eOne and didn't ink another deal until the early spring of 2018 with Sony's Century Media imprint. In March, they booked Graphic Nature Studio with producer Will Putney and Dutkiewicz with an ear toward creating a set that could specifically could be performed live, resulting in maximum crowd satisfaction. In September, Unearth revealed the track list and artwork for Extinction(s), their seventh studio offering. It was released in November as the band undertook an international tour. ~ Thom Jurek
- Boston, MA
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