MORE BERSERK 


;Unearth's just-released III: In the Eyes of Fire unleashes singer Trevor Phipps' stirring war cry, savage riffs and a brutal full-speed drumbeat within its first two seconds. Metal fans might recall the equally vicious immediacy of Pantera's 1996 album The Great Southern Trendkill, which sprang like a jack-in-the-box triggering a cement-filled boxing glove. Terry Date, who produced both records, deserves credit for the execution, but the similarity stems primarily from the bands making the same opening statement.

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;"We wanted to prove that bands can get heavier every album and still have a career," says Phipps. "For a while, bigger metal bands would get a bit lighter and try to cross over mainstream, but Pantera just got heavier as it got older."

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;Unearth emulates its elders' ideologies, but it hasn't cloned their sound. "This Glorious Nightmare," the aforementioned spontaneously combusting leadoff track, merges hardcore elements (chugging breakdowns, spoken/shouted vocals) with metal flourishes (solo-style guitar work during the verses, Southern-style groove riffs) and progressive accents (a military marching-drum cadence, keyboards that conjure images of an awestruck choir during a midsong solo). While some metalcore outfits compartmentalize their ingredients, Unearth churns its components until they're completely integrated.

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;Unearth's genre-blending extends to its itinerary. Having served previous stints on Ozzfest and the Sounds of the Under-ground tour, Unearth currently alternates between Ozzfest dates and club gigs alongside A Life Once Lost and the Red Chord. Regardless of the audience makeup, Unearth delivers spectacularly energetic sets. Phipps learned the value of unrelenting concert intensity from the other side of the stage.

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;"The first show I saw was Clash of the Titans when I was 12, with Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer and Alice in Chains," he says. "I got tired from headbanging, and I sat down for less than 30 seconds. Some dude threw a beer bottle at me that just missed my head, and he yelled, ‘Get up, it's Slayer!'"

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;Even before witnessing the spectacle of an arena show, Phipps started practicing to be a metal frontman, belting Metallica and Testament tunes into cheap microphones from his father's weekend rock & roll-DJ gig. In 1998, Unearth formed in Winthrop, Mass. For the first few years of ;its existence, the group gauged its success by how tightly it could pack the 200-capacity Elks Lodge in Salem.

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;"Every show became more berserk," Phipps says. By the time Unearth released 2001's debut full-length, The Stings of Conscience, "we couldn't play there anymore."

;;On 2004's The Oncoming Storm, Phipps established himself as a provocative lyricist, addressing the Iraq war with "The Great Dividers" ("Take over the world/Does hate mean freedom?") and global warming with "Black Hearts Now Reign" ("Rob this world of resource/Burn the oil for fortune"). Phipps says he "went less political" on III because he tired of having his interviews become current-event debates. However, the album does contain "March of the Mutes," a searing attack on apathy that ends with the haunting lines "Rome burns again/This time it's all of us/This time it's forever."

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;"We're so divided it's disgusting," he explains. "If we don't make a united effort to stop the environment from deteriorating, the world's end will come in our lifetime."

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;Phipps appeared on The Tonight Show July 18, but Jay Leno didn't ask him to elaborate about the impending apocalypse.

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;"He asked about groupies and how I compare to Gene Simmons," Phipps says. "Then he asked what I would be doing if I wasn't playing music, and there's a skit follow-up where I'm a fast-food guy. It was kinda cheesy, but I just play in a band and I'm here to have fun."

music@orlandoweekly.com

More by Andrew Miller

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