Unearth’s artwork for The Oncoming Storm accomplishes two things – the tornado on the album cover is an accurate depiction of both the band’s developing sound as well as the band’s part in the metalcore scene that developed in the early 2000ss. While not quite achieving the kind of commercial popularity that bands like Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God did as part of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal, Unearth certainly has a balanced discography. What’s important to note is that while any album in the band’s repertoire could feasibly be considered their best, it’s 2004’s The Oncoming Storm that provides a snapshot of where metalcore was headed at the time.
What you need to know about Unearth is this. At least on The Oncoming Storm, there’s pretty much a breakdown and plenty of guitar pyrotechnics in every song here. You really have to hand to songs like “This Lying World”, which manages to get more menacing as it slows down near the end, and so too does album opener “The Great Dividers”, which is moshpit-ready metalcore at its best. Thankfully, it’s also one of vocalist Trevor Phipps’ best performances, and the band also manages to feature some slightly more melodic vocals on tracks like “Zombie Autopilot” as well.
Speaking of breakdowns, it would be foolish not to mention the one on “Endless”. One of the album’s most notable songs overall, the song was actually released over a year prior. And while many consider the original version slightly more intriguing, it’s not a surprise the band managed to include it on what would become their breakout album. Seriously, the breakdown in the song is one of the best in the genre, and if you only listen to one song here, it should be this one.
Standout tracks abound, but there’s also an absence of filler here as well. Tracks that remain near the more melodic side of the band like “Lie To Purify” and “Black Hearts Now Reign” show off the band’s guitar work, courtesy of Ken Susi and Buz McGrath. Filled with interesting leads and riffs, Unearth’s guitar virtuosity is central to the band’s place in metalcore.
Unearth’s The Oncoming Storm is awfully impressive even today. While the band certainly has had a great career (festivals, major tours, and hundreds of thousands of albums sold), it’s hard not to put them in a category of bands that deserved even more commercial success, much like their brethren Poison The Well, Still, there are few metalcore albums of that decade that stand up to The Oncoming Storm – and even fewer who will be left standing after its ferocity throttles their ears.