Please introduce yourself to the readers.
This is Trevor Phipps, vocalist from the American Metal band Unearth.
When did the story of UNEARTH begin?
We formed in 1998.
What does UNEARTH stand for?
We wanted to “unearth” a new sound in the heavy music world. We wanted to combine elements of the bands we all loved growing up and stir them into a pot to make something refreshing and different. Up to that point nobody sounded like us. Since then, there have been a lot of copy cats though.,,,
How would you describe your band in 2011…? What has changed since you started out?
We are better song writers, but for the most part we are the same guys with the same energy and the same love for aggressive music. We have been touring full time for 10 years and have seen a lot of bands come and go with the trends. We are still here kicking teeth in and we plan on doing that for a long time to come.
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing your latest album ‘Darkness In The Light’ , and can say it is a great album. Can you give us some more information about it?
“Darkness in the Light” is our fifth full length album and it is a record that utilizes all the strongest points of our first four albums. We wanted to capture the energy of our debut “The Stings of Conscience”, the dynamic and catchiness of “The Oncoming Storm”, the speed, heaviness and aggression of “III: In the Eyes of Fire” and the solid song writing of “The March” and throw it all together to make a modern metal record. We feel we did that and it seems the majority of our fans are feeling this is our best album to date.
If possible you could you please, do a quick description of each track for us?
“Watch it Burn”
“Watch It Burn” is the lead track from Darkness In The Light because we felt it captured the aggression and heaviness of the album while also staying true to our core sound from our earlier records. This is one of the only tunes without a guitar solo, but the harmonies are there to mix around one of the heaviest choruses we’ve ever written.
The song is angry, fast and in-your-face, while also allowing for a melodic bridge late in the song, much like some of our older material. Lyrically, it is an anti-extremist song: It attacks both the left and right of the political spectrum while also calling into question extremist religious groups and their influence on our culture. All these political and religious extremists seem to do is splinter society and turn people against each other, [people] that otherwise likely wouldn’t be at odds. Basically, we can put aside some meager differences and work to better ourselves, or we can keep heading down this destructive path and eventually “Watch It Burn.”
“Ruination Of The Lost”
This one is a pummeling front-end album song which showcases our mix of both American and European metallic influences and has an apocalyptic lyrical theme. Buz [McGrath, guitarist] and Ken [Susi, guitarist] both rip some serious guitar solos in the tune, and their guitar harmonies are hauntingly catchy.
Lyrically, it speaks about the end of the human race in the not-so-distant future if we continue to destroy our planet with the current level of disregard year after year. It’s hard for me to understand why people still let money and politics interfere with any real positive change, even with the warning signs Mother Nature has given us. The title of the song refers to the self-destructive nature of the human race and how we are collectively so lost in our lust for money and power that we are destroying the world that gave us life in the first place.
“Shadows In The Light”
Aggression and melody coexist; both dominate this track equally. More sick solos from both Buz and Ken, as well as a more uplifting lyrical concept of standing face to face with your worst enemy and taking on your demons head on. By monitoring our Twitter and Facebook feeds, this one seems to be one of the early fan favorites.
“Eyes Of Black”
This one is currently my favorite track on the record. It has every element I love about metal: heaviness, speed, solos, angry vocal spit, a chorus you can scream along to and some Southern-rock-influenced metal riffs that add to the heaviness and grit of the song. The lyrics speak of becoming desensitized to tragedy and the harsh dealings life can provide, because of seeing and experiencing so much of it around you. As time goes on, I feel it is something more and more of us can relate to.
This is one is written from the point of view of a person on life support that isn’t coming back to join the living. They know they lived their life to the best they could, and now their last wish is to be set free. Musically, it is a ripper from start to finish. It reminds me of our early material from our Stings Of Conscience days. It has that same energy and sense of urgency to it that gets the blood flowing.
“Arise The War Cry”
Every Unearth album has the metallic “epic” tune, and this is the track on Darkness In The Light . Buz leads the way with some well-rehearsed sweeps that give way to a crushingly fast-paced and heavy verse. The song is about giving your everything to whatever task you need to conquer. Whether it is a social situation, your job, a sport or whatever, it is about doing it like it could be your last time. Never half-ass it, because it could be your last.
I wrote it while on tour at the tail-end of the album cycle. We had put in over two years of constant traveling for our last album, and I guess you can say I was a little burnt out. I wrote that song full-on knowing that no matter how beat up you get, if you love what you are doing, then you have to give it your all every single time. It is a rallying call.
This album is pretty relentless with the constant speed, aggression and heaviness, and “Equinox” gives it the breather that it needs to break things up a bit. We once again start in with piano, courtesy of our bassist John “Slo” Maggard, much like “Aries” on The Oncoming Storm and “Big Bear And The Hour of Chaos” on III: In the Eyes of Fire . This time, though, we turn it into a full song with every instrument, including vocals breaking in at about the halfway mark. It is short and sweet, but it does its job of breaking things up, while also injecting more a darker mood both musically and lyrically into the album.
“Coming Of The Dark”
Here’s another Twitter fan favorite that also reminds me of our earlier work. Lots of urgency, speed and aggression to go around, as well as some fierce lyrics speaking about being fed up with the shit life has handed you, especially for those who feel wronged or that they have been dealt a bad hand. Sometimes you need to take the bull by the horns and stop hoping things will be okay. Make your life the way you want, and make sure you do it yourself. The lyrics, “No longer will I follow false hands of destiny” to me means to only let what didn’t kill you make you stronger and to pave your own way to happiness. You and the ones closest to you are what matter most in this world.
If you like guitar-oriented tunes, then listen to this one. Melodic harmonies make their stamp all over this track that are reminiscent of some of our older songs “Zombie Autopilot” and “So It Goes”. Lyrically it is about honoring the memory of those close to you who have passed. Always keep those you lost close within while also living the life you have.
Here is a sing-along, “anthem”-styled jam. The clean vox mixed with my vocals and a group chant provide the major hook to this tune. McGrath and Susi again add some sick solos to complete the anthemic vibe.
Probably the heaviest song on the album, and one of the heaviest we’ve ever written. The double bass and overall drumming on this track is like nothing ever recorded on an Unearth record. The breakdown? Forget it. If there isn’t blood on the floor when we play this live, then the audience is soft. Again, the solos are face-melting. Buz and Ken just keep getting better with each album, and this song is another that proves it. The vocals and lyrical theme is pure venom.
For me, it is about many people I have come across in life that have stabbed me (or people close to me) in the back for their own personal gain. A lot of this inspiration came from some—not all by any means—of the people I have met in my travels and time in the music business.
There are many amazing people, but at the same time there are a lot of shady characters out there, and your guard needs to constantly be up. Disillusion is my frustration and anger boiled over onto a sheet of paper and eventually, the song. I curse all the time during a live show, but have never done it on one of our albums up until this song. “Faith fucking failed me” is a direct reference to the faith I had in people who let me down or stabbed me in the back in this business. I’m still here, though, and a lot of them are gone for one reason or another.
Did you have any influences for the album, who/what are they and how did they influence you?
Our musical influences have always remained the same as it is music we grew up with. Bands like Pantera, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Testament, Earth Crisis, Sick of it All, In Flames, At the Gates, Crowbar, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin and more are what drives this band. We love aggressive music and we couldn’t care less about what “sub-genre” any of those bands fall into in the metal world. We love heavy music and we love playing it.
Do you have a particular writing process for songs or is it different for each song that you come up with?
Every song will need a verse and a chorus. Besides that we will mix it up. Some songs have breakdowns, some don’t. Some songs have solo’s, some don’t. Some songs have drawn out intros, some don’t. We kind of just go where the song takes us and see what happens when we are done. Some songs hit the trash heap and others make it to the studio sessions
What is your favorite track from the album & why?
My favorite track is “Eyes of Black” because it is a crushing metal tune with a ton of different influences mixed in. I love playing it on stage and I enjoy jamming it in my private time. It is catchy, heavy, dynamic and everything I personally like about metal.
Are you looking forward to the upcoming Hell On Earth Tour through Europe in August??
Hell yeah we are. Day one is today in Germany and there are already over 500 pre-sales, so it is looking like this will be a great tour.
What kind of responses do you usually get from the crowd at your gigs?
We usually get a high energy mosh metal party vibe. We bring a party to the people nightly, so we expect high energy in the pit, on stage, in the crowd, everything. We are there to have fun and want everyone in the building to have fun with us. A live show is all about positive energy being released in the club atmosphere.
Do you prefer to play at festivals or club tours?
I like both for different reasons, but the clubs are more intimate and I usually have more fond memories of the club shows. There is just something great about being right up close with the crowd and jamming out together in tight quarters.
What is your favorite song/album at the moment?
Band: Turbid North
Song: The Hunter
What is your favourite band/artist?
Do you have a favourite gig story/ memorable experience?
There are so many great stories from the road and it is hard to choose a favorite. I guess I just go into every day expecting a good time on stage and a great time after hanging with my band mates and other bands on the tour. Sometimes severe drunk times ensue and we get ourselves into trouble, where as other times we can be more chill and have a sbobet poker game, jam to some classic metal and rock or sometimes just watch a movie.
What do you like the least about today’s metal scene?
There is too much emphasis on sub-genres of metal. To me it is all metal and I will give it a shot no matter what sub-genre people lump it into. At the end of the day it is still heavy and aggressive music and if the songs are good then the songs are good. The metal scene is too small for people to hate on each other for playing something slightly different than another band. Plus, why would we want every band to sound the same? Wouldn’t that make metal boring and redundant?
What do you like most about today’s metal scene?
I like that metal is worldwide and the bands that work the hardest seem to prevail.
Are there any messages that you would like to pass on to the Planetmosh readers.
Check out our new album “Darkness in the Light” on Metal Blade Records. See you in the UK soon!
Thank you very much Trevor for your time you taken to fill in this interview.
Read my review of UNEARTH – “Darkness in the Light” 9/10