Metal band to travel with legendary Slayer
Boston was a dying scene, each band shaking the walls of the city’s clubs and bars regarded as little more than a persona non grata.
“No one went to those shows,” said Ken Susi, recalling the Boston hardcore scene of the late ’90s. “Nobody cared.”
And then Unearth happened – an all-out, modern-day thrash assault with an old-school hardcore sensibility.
Susi, one half of the metal quintet’s twin-axe attack, stands as a Leonardo Da Vinci-like workaholic in the metal scene. When he’s not writing music for Unearth, he’s touring. When he’s not touring, he’s in the sound booth mixing albums for other up and coming bands.
Now hitting the road with the legendary Slayer, Unearth is coming off its most aggressive and raw album to date, “III: In the Eyes of Fire.” The two bands hit Denver at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson.
“We wanted to go backwards,” Susi said. “We wanted to make a record that was cut and dry, no bullshit. We didn’t want to do triggered this and that.”
Overproduction is the order of the day in metal, with clean-as-a-whistle guitar howls and arena-ready drum beats. And Unearth, being one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore and metal, often are lumped in with a seemingly endless brigade of metalcore bands – not always a compliment coming from metal elitists. But Susi prefers to forego the moniker du jour.
“I’m a musician. We’re all musicians in the band. We’re not afraid to be blacklisted,” Susi said. “People love to make up slogans so that when the fad is dead, they have something to make fun of. Call us what you want, but we’re just playing heavy metal.”
Unearth’s passion is manifested through the lyrics of frontman Trevor Phipps, who delves into subjects ranging from political anti-war tirades to introspective poetry.
“He knows how to express himself and express what’s around him,” Susi said of Phipps. “We all kind of have the same outlook. He’s a great frontman and also a great poet.”
It was the toil of Unearth and fellow Bostonians Killswitch Engage and the now-defunct Overcast (members of whom would later form the modern thrash band Shadows Fall) that started a movement with many copycats. And most of those copycats still can’t capture what its originators still can.
“I feel very proud that us, Shadows Fall and Killswitch put Boston on the map,” Susi said. “We’ve always been great friends.”
And it’s with good reason that Unearth continue to garner critical acclaim from both mainstream and underground publications – “III: In the Eyes of Fire” is chock full of speedy riffs, haunting melodies and neck-snapping breakdowns.
Even so, Susi and fellow guitarist Buz McGrath don’t live for perfection. They just live for music.
“I never really concentrated on learning guitar.” Susi said. “It never really excited me to learn a bunch of scales and sit around practicing for 10 hours a day.”
And while neither is the perfect guitar player, Susi says their abilities complement each other well.
“He’s good at everything I’m not good at, and I’m good at everything he’s not good at,” Susi said. “We become this Voltron of a guitar player.”
When he isn’t half of Voltron, Susi can typically be found in the studio. He often only takes a couple days off after a tour, and then will work 14 hours a day in the sound booth with other bands.
“I like to bring their music and their sound to the next level. I live off of that, man. That’s life, man,” Susi said. “The day that comes crashing down, I’ll probably be a really boring and sad fellow.”
And even though they’re still touring in support of 2006’s “III… ,” Susi’s mind is already swirling with ideas for the next album.
“I think I want to put out a very experimental record. (But) we’ll still sound like Unearth,” Susi said. “I’m getting better as a producer, and there are a lot of ideas in my head. I can’t wait to explore them.”